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Frankfurt show: Audi reveals quad-motor super EV

Electron: Audi says the R8-based e-tron electric vehicle will go into production, but in small numbers.

Electric-powered Audi e-tron packs 4500Nm – yes, 4500Nm – of torque

16 Sep 2009


AUDI demonstrated its commitment to electric vehicles at the Frankfurt motor show by revealing the stunning e-tron concept super sportscar boasting an enormous 4500Nm of torque from its four electric motors that can blast the R8-based coupe from zero to 100km/h in 4.8 seconds.

Just as GoAuto predicted last month, the plug-in sportscar turned up on Audi’s show stand next to the new R8 Spyder convertible.

The existence of the plug-in high-performer was revealed in Sydney by Audi AG board member for marketing, Peter Schwarzenbauer, who told GoAuto: “I’m not confirming R8 (convertible), but at the top end and something very, very sporty, we are going to show in the upcoming Frankfurt motor show in September what we think the right way is of getting into the electric era is.” On cue in Frankfurt, Audi pulled the covers from the e-tron – a drivable concept which it aims to produce in road-going prototype form by next year before building a small series of e-trons in 2012, ahead of a wider range of electric vehicles in several segments.

7 center imageThe e-tron signals Audi’s intention of putting ground breaking green technology in top-of-the-range models, rather than small cars, as also revealed in GoAuto in August.

“We are focusing on the top when it comes to introducing this technology because these are the cars that customers are prepared to pay a premium for,” Audi board chairman, Rupert Stadler said as he introduced the car.

The e-tron is clearly closely related to the R8 sportscar, but instead of a mid-mounted V8 or V10 petrol engine, it runs four electric motors for a total 230kW of power and a monstrous 4500Nm of torque (no, that’s not a misprint).

The motors are mounted in each wheel and are independently controlled to make sure the e-tron can also go around corners.

Audi engineers have configured the all-wheel-drive system to send 70 per cent of the torque to the rear and 30 per cent to front for sporty handling, but this can be altered depending on the conditions.

“This is a true quattro, with incredible dynamics,” said Mr Stadler, who tested the car in July.

The e-tron sits on 19-inch wheels and features carbon brakes controlled electronically by drive-by-wire technology.

The e-tron has a lithium-ion battery providing 42.4 kilowatt hours of energy for a range of about 250km.

Audi did not go into details of the battery technology, but it is a result of a tie up between the German prestige player and electronics expert Sanyo of Japan.

To maximise range, Audi has concentrated on making the e-tron as light as possible, giving it excellent aerodynamics and limiting the battery drain from on-board systems such as air-conditioning.

The battery, which is liquid cooled for optimum efficiency, has been placed in front of the rear axle for a front/rear weight balance of 42:58.

Audi has identified that one of the biggest problems it faces in future is the great weight of batteries. In the case of the e-tron, the substantial battery weighs a hefty 470kg.

Like many of the brand’s sports and luxury models, the car uses an aluminium space frame, while the panels are made of fibre-reinforced plastic. This special composite material will be introduced in other Audi models and is expected to make its debut in the all-new A8 limo to be revealed later this year.

The weight-saving measures have allowed Audi too keep the overall weight pegged to about 1600kg.

Audi says that although the e-tron is as light as possible, it also features a full suite of driver information and entertainment features.

“This is not an austerity concept in which we simply leave a lot out,” said Mr Stadler.

Features include touch sensitive control pads that operate like an iPhone to eliminate many of the dials and switches found in current cars. The e-tron also features innovative active headlight system that can detect inclement weather conditions and oncoming traffic and react accordingly.

The system uses a camera that relays the information to a computer which in turn controls the spread and brightness of the light beams.

For example, in the case of oncoming traffic, the high beams are turned off in the corresponding section of the illumination field. The headlight system is also hooked up to the satellite navigation system and is able to detect a corner and point the light in that direction before the driver starts turning into it.

Audi says the e-tron can be recharged using a regular household power plug, taking between six and eight hours to fully charge.

Audi engineers are working on a wireless recharging solution to make it more convenient and, importantly, faster.

The ‘inductive’ charging station is activated automatically when the vehicle is docked and Audi said the same kind of technology is used today to charge electric toothbrushes.

While Audi has declared its enthusiasm for full electric drive, it is also still planning to introduce hybrid technology starting with a petrol-electric Q5 next year.

Audi management sees hybrid as little more than linking technology and is convinced that, long term, fully electric powertrains are the way to go.

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