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Audi changes hybrid course

Green living: Audi expects the A3 e-tron to touch down here in 2015 to challenge the BMW i3 and Holden Volt.

Plug-in A3, not conventional A6 hybrid, to be Audi’s first local petrol-electric car

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Audi logo2 Aug 2013

By MIKE COSTELLO

AUDI Australia has changed tack on its hybrid vehicle plans, with the company confirming it no longer intends to sell an electrified version of the A6 sedan here.

Instead, the company’s first hybrid vehicle in Australia will be the more advanced A3 e-tron plug-in hybrid which, unlike the conventional petrol-electric A6, can be charged from an external source such as a wall socket.

However, while the A6 petrol-electric model had been expected to arrive in Australia this year, the A3 PHEV hatchback will not arrive in local showrooms until 2015, effectively pushing out the debut of Audi’s first Australian hybrid by around two years.

Audi Australia managing director Andrew Doyle told GoAuto this week that a prospective move into the electrified market was “more a decision of having the right product at the right time” for the company.

“We’re still in the process of really making sure we have the right product that will be ready for the market, but also making sure the market is ready for it as well,” he said.

The company earlier this year backed away from plans to offer the larger A8 hybrid from 2013, which uses the same drivetrain as the A6 version.

It’s understood both were taken off the table largely because fuel consumption was not markedly better than that of the existing turbo-diesel offerings, thereby limiting market appeal.

The petrol-electric sedan has a system output of 188kW and 480Nm, 3km of zero-emissions range and fuel consumption of 6.2 litres per 100km (142 grams of CO2 per kilometre). By comparison, the flagship Biturbo V6 diesel offering is substantially more powerful, faster and only uses 0.2L/100km more fuel.

Still, most of Audi’s main rivals in the premium large market offer a hybrid, either of the petrol-electric (BMW 5 Series ActiveHybrid, Lexus GS450h and Infiniti M35h) or diesel-electric variety (Mercedes-Benz E300h BlueTEC).

By comparison, the scant difference in fuel use between hybrid and diesel configurations does not apply to the A3 e-tron, which uses just 1.5 litres per 100km (and carbon dioxide emissions of 35 grams per 100km) thanks to its longer pure electric range.

The most frugal A3 diesel variant uses 3.9L/100km.

Audi Australia corporate communications executive Shaun Cleary confirmed this week that the company would launch the PHEV from 2015, when it will line up against rivals such as the BMW i3 and Holden Volt.

The A3 e-tron’s running gear consists of a 110kW 1.4-litre turbo petrol engine linked to a 75kW disc shaped electric motor via a special clutch. Power is sent to the front wheels via a newly designed six-speed ‘e’ S tronic dual-clutch automatic transmission.

Total system output is 150kW of power and 350Nm of torque – nigh on hot hatch figures – while Audi claims the two power sources “complement” each other.

Essentially, the motor provides peak torque from start-up through to 2000rpm, by which time the petrol engine’s peak torque has come on stream (at 1750rpm), before continuing all the way through to 4000rpm.

The e-tron can be driven with just the petrol engine, as a pure electric or as a combination of both. When the driver lets up on the throttle, both sources de-activate temporarily.

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