This weekend sees the start of the new Formula E season of Electric Car racing with a number of new players including Audi. Full race report to follow.
For the first time, Audi will be competing in motorsport as a factory team with a fully electric race car this weekend (December 2/3). The two races in Hong Kong form the opening event of the new Formula E season in which Audi is the first German automobile manufacturer to be involved. For Team Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler, Daniel Abt and Champion Lucas di Grassi will be at the wheel of the Audi e-tron FE04.
“The past few weeks were intensive and exciting for the whole squad,” says Head of Audi Motorsport Dieter Gass. Our agenda included the meticulous preparation of the four race cars, computer simulations of diverse strategies and situations, fine-tuning of all processes and perfect preparation of the entire equipment, to name just a few items on the completed checklist. “Now, everyone is happy to finally be traveling to the race track and competing for points and trophies again.”
For the first time, a Formula E season will start with two races on one weekend, a so-called double-header. On Saturday and Sunday, the fans will experience two near-identical event days with practice, qualifying and races. Including the additional points for pole position and the fastest race lap, a total of 58 points will be awarded. “We aim to be perfectly positioned from minute one and manage a good start of the new season,” says Lucas di Grassi. The champion is looking forward to Hong Kong: “The city is great and the fans enthusiastic – the whole event is a fantastic spectacle.”
The 1.860-kilometer race track is routed directly along the waterfront and past the famous Ferris wheel. The temporary circuit uses streets that are normally public and has a very long straight that offers a good overtaking opportunity. It is followed by a technically challenging section with many tight turns. The track surface poses an additional challenge, as it changes from tarmac to concrete. On Saturday, 43 and on Sunday, 45 laps will be driven.
Driver Daniel Abt can hardly wait for the start: “We’ve been working hard in recent weeks – during tests on the track, in the simulator and in our preparations with the engineers. Obviously, we’ll only know in Hong Kong where we stand compared with the competition. But we’ve done our homework.” While his teammate as the reigning champion will be entering the race in car number one, Abt will keep his proven number 66. Celebrating his 25th birthday on Sunday will be additional motivation for him to achieve a good result.
In Formula E’s Hong Kong debut last year, the German team experienced a chaotic race. Both Daniel Abt’s and Lucas di Grassi’s race cars were damaged as early as on lap one. While Abt had to park his car, di Grassi fought back from the end of the field to second place. His comeback drive was possible thanks to a bold strategy of his team and sophisticated energy management.
Track Facts and figures
Date: December 2/3, 2017
Track name: Hong Kong Central Harbourfront Circuit
Track length: 1.86 kilometers
Top speed: approx. 200 km/h
Fastest/slowest turn: approx. 95/30 km/h
Previous winner: Sébastien Buemi (2016)
Best result of Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler: 2nd place, Lucas di Grassi (2016)
Lap record, qualifying: Nelson Piquet jr., 1m 03.099s (2016)
Lap record, race: Felix Rosenqvist, 1m 02.947s (2016)
More bad news for Audi
German publication Bild reports that emissions cheating software has been found by investigators in Audi A8 cars.
The government has asked that about 250K cars by recalled by Audi to address the issue.
Germany prosecutor expands investigations against Audi
The Munich Public Prosecutor’s Office is expanding its investigation into Audi’s alleged fraud.
In this case, car sales in Germany and Europe, not just as in the US, are now included, said a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office on Friday.
It was found, as before, on the basis of suspicions of fraud and criminal prosecution. However, the German Federal Motor Vehicle Agency (KBA) did not receive any up-to-date information on possible exhaust gas fraud.
Two Audi models have been flown with illegally manipulated exhaust gas purification!
The research commission of Federal Minister of Transport Alexander Dobrindt (CSU) came up with the luxury model Audi A8 Automatic with a V6 and V8 TDI engine (built 2009 to 2013) of cheating software.
The illegal software detects when the vehicle is on a test stand in the workshop. There, all exhaust gas purification systems are properly commissioned, but switched off in long-range operation over long distances.
We though the Dieselgate was winding down and consumers were starting regain trust in VW it seems that there is more to cloud the air. Yes more allogations of fixing. This time software to reduce CO2 embeded in the gearbox.
Reuters report that Germany’s Bild am Sonntag uncovered that the California Air Resources Board (CARB) discovered software in an automatic transmission used by Audi to hide emissions, this time in both gasoline and diesel cars.
According to the report, the software discovered by CARB, which was installed in vehicles with certain automatic transmissions, detected whether a car’s steering wheel was turned. If it was not, indicating laboratory testing conditions, the software turned on a gear-shifting program which produced less carbon dioxide than in normal road driving. If the wheel was turned in any direction by more than 15 degrees, the program was switched off, the paper said.
The Bild am Sonntag report claimed Audi stopped using the transmission-liked defeat device in May 2016 and that CARB found it in a vehicle built prior to this date.
The discovery, which was reportedly made in the summer, may explain why the Justice Department has told the VW Group to refrain from making public the results of law firm Jones Day’s independent investigation into the original diesel emissions cheating scandal at the automaker. The request by the Justice Department was said to be due to the desire to keep confidential details linked to other probes.
The Frankfurt Motor Show kicks off and shows a number of interesting Electric Car from Audi and Porsche.
As Tesla sales continue to grow with the Model S and the soon to be released Model X the German marques are getting concerned and starting to show their cards on how they plan to fight back.
First up the Audi E-Tron concept will hit the streets as the Q6 e-tron in 2018, according to Autocar. We will showcase the Porsche concept car in a later post.
The Audi EV was Audi Concept at last years show in concept form. Audi has already confirmed that it will be offered for sale, badged as the Q6 e-tron quattro. Dr Ulrich Hackenberg, Audi’s head of research and development, said, “It’s a concept car but it’s very close to the production car.”
Luca de Meo, Audi’s sales and marketing boss, told Autocar that the electric model will “cost about the same as a well-specced Audi A6”. That suggests it will appear at a price point of at least £60k
The e-tron-quattro sports a bold new design that suggests future electric models from Audi will have their own aerodynamically optimised look. It draws on the latest developments in lightweight construction, aerodynamics, battery technology and electric drive systems to provide the performance to challenge the fastest of Audi’s existing petrol, diesel and electric SUV models whilst delivering a claimed zero-emission range of up to 311 miles.
“Audi will present an electric SUV in early 2018. The e-tron quattro concept provides a concrete foretaste of this,” confirmed Hackenberg, before later revealing, “We will use this car to introduce this technology to a bigger number of customers in the market. We’ll fill one factory [with production].” When asked of the scale of the plant he said, “I won’t tell you about the size of the factory but it’s a lot. It’s not a small one.”
This vehicle will in some ways be pitched at the Tesla Model X as they will be similar sized, with similar range and similar price. With the existing Audi A3 E-tron plug-in Audi, have some first hand experience in the EV world. However this will be at least two years behind the Tesla SUV and a lot can happen in those years. Also Tesla is building out a pan Europen charging network of fast charging points for Model S and X owners, permitting them to drive virtually all over Europe for free and with minimal charge time. Audi are pushing a 150KW rapid charge technology in the Q6. No mention of what this is or where you would find a 150 KW power point. They have also highlighted a more reasonable 11Kw wireless charging system using Inductive technology. Apparently the car will include a piloted parking function that has been conceived to automatically park over a charging plate imbedded in the ground. The charging process starts automatically, with a magnetic field providing an alternating AC current that is converted to DC by the e-tron quattro’s electronic package. Once the battery is topped up, the charging automatically ceases. The whole process can be monitored and controlled via a smartphone app. We wait to see if this is the end of cables as we know them and more details on where a charge plate could be installed. In a home garage would seem ideal but would look to be a complex and messy retrofit to a floor.
Specs include Three motors and up to 496bhp with 95 KWh battery pack
At the heart of Audi’s concept Q6 is an in-house developed electric drive system. It uses three motors – one mounted up front sending drive to the front wheels and the remaining two sited at the rear acting on the rear wheels. Nominal power is put at 429bhp, although a boosting function made available in the more sportier of two drive modes temporarily increases its maximum output to 496bhp. It is accompanied by peak torque of 590lb ft.
The power is sent to all four wheels via a drive-management system. An electronic torque-vectoring function also apportions power between the individual rear wheels depending on grip levels. The gearbox offers the choice between two modes: Drive and Sport.
Audi is yet to reveal a weight figure for the e-tron quattro. However, it is claimed to have an 0-62mph time of just 4.6sec. Top speed is limited to 131mph to preserve the battery charge. All of that power is good enough to push the sleek concept to 100 kilometers per hour (62.1 miles per hour) in 4.6 seconds. Top speed will be electronically limited to 130.5 mph. This isn’t Tesla ludicrous territory, but is should feel plenty peppy on the road.
Energy to run the electric motors is drawn from a large liquid cooled 95kWh battery bolted to the floor below the passenger compartment – a position aimed at providing the new SUV the lowest possible centre of gravity while achieving a front-to-rear weight distriubution of 52:48. Hinting at its modular nature, Audi says the lithium-ion unit is suitable for other future electric models.
On a full charge, the battery is claimed to provide the e-tron quattro concept with a range of over 311 miles based on the criteria used in the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) test procedure.
As for charging, the concept offers a few ways to fill up the 95-kWh battery pack. There’s the expected SAE Combo/Combined Charging System (CCS) outlet as well as wireless induction charging. Audi says that a 150-kW DC fast charger can fill up the pack in around 50 minutes, but good luck finding a plug that can handle that much power – even in 2018.
Stretching to 4880mm in length, 1930mm in width and 1540mm in height, the e-tron quattro is 250mm longer, 30mm wider and 115mm lower than the existing first-generation Q5. Yet despite the generous dimensions, the drag co-efficient is significantly better than any of Audi’s current SUV models at 0.25.
In a preview of the aerodynamic measures being pursued for the production version of the new Audi model, active body elements deploy above 50mph to provide more efficient airflow and added cooling potential at the front; the side sills extend in length by 50mm to smooth the flow of air past the rear wheels; a spoiler atop the tailgate extends by 100mm to elongate the roof line; the diffuser extends to speed the airflow rate at the rear and flat paneling sporting a special finish resembling the surface of shark skin is used underneath.
The interior of the e-tron quattro draws heavily on the design originally unveiled on the Prologue concept at last year’s Los Angeles motor show. It provides seating for up to four, with two individual seats front and rear. Boot space is put at 615 litres – 75 litres more than that offered by the first-generation Q5. Owing to the lack of a traditional exhaust system, the luggage compartment area is set low. With the rear seats folded, capacity increases to 1725 litres – some 350 litres less than that of the new Q7.
Hackenberg explained the driving force behind the creation of the Audi e-tron quattro: “This is the SUV that sales and marketing were asking for. We [the engineering division] wanted a car with low rolling resistance. This concept combines both, together with Audi’s core values: quattro four-wheel drive, air springs, aerodynamics.”
The ultra-efficient aerodynamics of the e-tron quattro are the result of an internal Audi design competition, explains Ingolstadt’s exterior designer Andreas Mindt: “We had an internal competition to develop the aerodynamics, with four teams developing quarter scale prototypes in the wind tunnel”.
The rings of OLED lights at the corners of the e-tron quattro will become shorthand to signify a plug-in vehicle in Audi’s range.
Audi Press Release:
Audi e-tron quattro concept: Electric driving pleasure with no compromises
A foretaste of the production version: The electric-powered Audi e-tron quattro concept. Range of more than 500 kilometers (310.7 mi) for full everyday usability. New concept combines aerodynamics and creative design solutions
Flow-enhanced design with a drag coefficient of 0.25; a powerful, all-electric e-tron quattro drive with up to 370 kW – Audi is presenting the Audi e-tron quattro concept at the International Motor Show (IAA) 2015 in Frankfurt. The car is the company’s statement about the future of electric mobility: It is sporty, efficient and suitable for everyday use.
“Audi will present an all-electric, luxury-class sport SUV in early 2018. The Audi e‑tron quattro concept provides a concrete foretaste of this,” says Prof. Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg, Member of the Audi Board of Management for Technical Development. “It combines driving pleasure with great range, an expressive design and excellent comfort.”
The Audi e‑tron quattro concept uses the power of three electric motors: One electric motor drives the front axle, the two others act on the rear axle. Total output is 320 kW. The driver can even mobilize 370 kW and over 800 Nm (590.0 lb-ft) of torque temporarily while boosting. The concept study thus performs like a sports car. When the driver floors the right pedal, the Audi e‑tron quattro concept sprints from a standstill to 100 km/h (62.1 mph) in 4.6 seconds and quickly reaches the electronically governed top speed of 210 km/h (130.5 mph).
The concept with three electric motors which Audi is presenting for the first time makes the technology study an e‑tron quattro. An intelligent drive management system controls the interplay between them as appropriate for the situation. The focus here is on the greatest possible efficiency. The driver decides on the degree of recuperation, the driving program S or D and the mode of the Audi drive select system.
During sporty driving on a winding road, the Torque Control Manager actively distributes the power between the rear wheels as necessary. This torque vectoring provides for maximum dynamics and stability.
The large lithium-ion battery is integrated into the floor of the passenger compartment. It gives the Audi e‑tron quattro concept a balanced axle load distribution and a low center of gravity – prerequisites for its dynamic handling. The battery’s capacity of 95 kWh enables a range of more than 500 kilometers (310.7 mi). The Combined Charging System (CCS) enables charging with DC or AC electrical current. A full charge with DC electrical current at a charging column with an output of 150 kW takes just around 50 minutes. As an alternative, the study is equipped with Audi Wireless Charging technology for contactless induction charging. The charging process is very convenient. The Audi e‑tron quattro concept uses a system for piloted parking that guides it to the proper position at the charging plate. In addition, a large solar roof provides electricity for the drive system battery on sunny days.
The chassis also expresses the high-tech character of the concept study. The adaptive air suspension sport, which features controlled damping, lowers the body at higher speeds to reduce drag. The dynamic-all-wheel steering combines a dynamic steering system on the front axle with a steering system for the rear wheels. Depending on speed and the driving situation, they steer either opposite or in the same direction as the front wheels. The Audi e‑tron quattro concept thus reacts even more spontaneously and stably, and is also very manoeuvrable at low speeds.
Aerodynamic: The exterior design
The Audi e‑tron quattro concept harmoniously combines the design with the aerodynamics and all-electric drive system. The five-door technology study is 4.88 meters (16.0 ft) long, 1.93 meters (6.3 ft) wide and just 1.54 meters (5.1 ft) high. Its coupe-like silhouette with the extremely flat greenhouse that tapers strongly toward the rear lends it a very dynamic appearance. The car’s drag coefficient measures just 0.25 – a new best for the SUV segment, where figures are usually considerably over 0.30.
All of this contributes considerably to the long range of more than 500 kilometers (310.7 miles). At speeds from 80 km/h (49.7 mi), electrically actuated aerodynamic elements on the engine hood, the flanks and at the rear end direct the flow of air as needed to improve the flow through and around the vehicle. This is one example of the intensive development work in the wind tunnel. Wind noise is low on board the car, and there are no engine noises in an electric car in any case. The fascination of electric driving unfolds in near total silence.
The vertical separating edges on the side panels and the fully enclosed floor pan with its newly designed microstructures contribute to reducing drag. Cameras replace the exterior mirrors – another contribution to the excellent aerodynamics and also a foretaste of the future of driving.
All the main lighting functions at the front of the car use Matrix laser technology. The bottom section houses a new, distinctive lighting signature comprising five lighting elements. Each of these combines an LED luminary with an extremely flat OLED element (organic light-emitting diode). Audi is developing Matrix OLED technology for use in production vehicles and is showing it for the first time in the concept study at the IAA.
The rear lights also comprise two sections. Each of the top zones features nine red OLED units for the tail light function, with three more below.
Deep integration: The interior
The package of the Audi e‑tron quattro concept enables a spacious, comfortable interior for four persons and 615 liters (21.7 cu ft) of luggage. The interior has a light and open feel to it; its architecture melds harmoniously with the operating and display concept. All displays in the interior use OLED technology. The extremely thin films can be cut to any desired shape.
The new Audi virtual cockpit curved OLED is a further development of the Audi virtual cockpit that debuted in production vehicles in 2014. To the left and right below the fully-digital instrument cluster are two touch displays with black glass and a subtle aluminum frame. The driver controls the lights and the systems for piloted driving with the left display. The large display on the right is for media and navigation management. The steering wheel serves as an alternate control level. Its spokes are equipped with contoured touch surfaces.
Below the selector lever on the center tunnel console are two more OLED displays for the drive system status, climate control and freely programmable information functions. The curved displays in the front section of the doors serve as digital exterior mirrors.
The two rear passengers sit on comfortable individual seats. They can use the OLED displays on the center console to configure the climate control and infotainment for their area or to exchange data with the driver. An LTE module connects the Audi e‑tron quattro concept with the Internet. The connectivity features in the study are cutting edge.
The zFAS: Nerve center for piloted driving
The concept study is equipped with all the technologies that Audi has developed for piloted driving: radar sensors, a video camera, ultrasonic sensors and a laser scanner. The data these supply come together in the central driver assistance controller (zFAS) in the luggage compartment. It computes a complete model of the car’s surroundings in real time and makes this information available to all assistance systems and the systems for piloted driving. These technologies are also nearly ready for use in production vehicles.
Audi today issued a teaser picture and some scant details of an all-electric SUV that it will launch to rival the upcoming Tesla Model X.
The SUV will have a range of more than 500km (310 miles) and will go into production in 2018 as the brand’s first volume electric car, Audi said in a statement.
Audi will preview the SUV, likely to be called the Q6, with the e-tron quattro concept that will debut at next month’s Frankfurt auto show.
The four-seat SUV has a length between that of the Q5 and the Q7, Audi said.
The SUV will be powered by three electric motors – one on the front axle and two on the rear axle – used on the electric variant of the R8 sports car, which has a 450km range.
Audi did not give the details of the SUV’s performance but reports in the motoring press said the model is expected to develop 500hp and 700Nm (517 lb-ft) of torque.
New battery technology and technical measures to reduce aerodynamic drag contribute to the EV’s long-range. The underbody is completely closed and it has movable aerodynamic elements at the front, on the sides and at the rear improve the air flow around the car, helping the model to achieve a drag coefficient value of 0.25, a new record in the SUV segment, Audi said.
The large lithium-ion battery is positioned between the axles and below the passenger compartment, creating a low centre of gravity and a balanced axle load distribution.
The SUV will be underpinned by Audi parent Volkswagen Group’s second-generation MLB platform that offers weight savings, helping to boost its range.
The Q6’s range exceeds the current range of Tesla’s Model S, which can travel up to 435 km (270 miles) on a single charge. The Model X, Tesla’s second model, is expected to have a range of 270 to 365 km (170 to 230 miles).
Tesla is increasingly seen as a threat to larger luxury-car brands like Audi because of the allure of its vehicles.
Bloomberg and Automotive News Europe contributed to this report
At last we get a chance to drive the first plug-in hybrid from Audi, the now available A3 sportback e-tron.
This is a very interesting car that is exceedingly well executed by Audi. It joins the ranks of Plug In petrol cars with a hybrid drive train incorporating the standard components of a 1.4 petrol A3 with an electric power train consisting of 75 kW motor and 8.8 kWh lithium-ion battery pack and charger. The pack is large enough to drive 31 miles in pure EV mode. This makes it totally useful as a short-range EV. Has the smart dash that shows charge state and power flow as all hybrids tend to do. Combines sporty seats with quality and refinement.
The Audi A3 offers the usual driving modes: Full Electric, Auto, Petrol and Charge. Auto switches between pure EV and the petrol engine and the transition is so smooth you would be hard tested to know the switch. In this mode the car will charge the battery pack automatically. In Petrol only mode the battery charge will be conserved, allow g a drive to reserve the EV mode for a journeys destination such as London. Just why you would need to micro manage the pack is unknown.
In the EC efficiency test Audi claim an impressive 176 mpg. These tests are virtually meaningless. You could do 176 miles in pure EV mode over 6 days and use no petrol, assuming you re-charged at home or work. Or you could blast down the A3 in an A3 e-tron in Petrol mode and expect a more realistic 40 MPG. Your data will vary considerably depending on your style and charging ability.
The car does drive rather nicely and is reasonable well equipped. For a £30,000 car of course it should be full of goodies. This includes the Audi DSG 6 speed auto gear box with steering wheel shifters and smart gear level. You should leave the car in auto at all times, it drives just fine as is. Performance is reasonable with 60 in around 7.5 seconds. That’s fast enough for day-to-day driving. Top end is a claimed 137 mph.
The performance is always a compromise between power and weight. The e-tron adds 125 kg of mass, bringing curb weight to 1,540 kg. This extra weight has little impact on the standard A3 ride.
It will be interesting to compare this with the new VW Plug in Golf. Both car share most of the components, just the Audi is a tad flasher and more expensive.
With a 30 mile EV range this makes the cute A3 a much better bet than the Toyota Prius plug-in that only offers about 10 miles in EV mode, hardly worth it.
The BMW i3 is a closer competitor especially at the £30 K price point.
Audi A3 e-tron
Tested: 1,395cc turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine, plus 75kW electric motor powered by 8.8kWh lithium-ion battery, six-speed dual-clutch transmission, front-wheel drive
Price/on sale: £29,950 (including the £5,000 Government plug-in car grant)/now
Power/torque: total system output 201bhp/258lb ft
Top speed: 138mph
Acceleration: 0-62mph in 7.6sec
Fuel economy: 178.8mpg (EU Combined)
CO2 emissions: 37g/km
VED band: A (£0)
Electric range: Up to 31 miles
Verdict: Easy to live with, classy and capable of slashing your day-to-day motoring costs for short-range journey. – A Plug-In hybrid worth the hype, particularly for business users.
We drove the car care of Audi Guildford.
Audi joins the plug in bandwagon with the latest A3 variant the A3 E-tron.
Audi have shown a number of e-tron concepts and now seem fixed on bringing the A3 plug-in version to life with models expected in the UK in summer 2014.
The Audi A3 e-tron is a plug-in petrol hybrid version of the A3 Sportback. It’s powered by a 148bhp 1.4 litre TSI engine and a 99bhp electric motor sandwiched between the gearbox and power unit to drive the front wheels. The motor also doubles as the engine’s starter.
A six-speed DSG gearbox harnesses the power, its wide ratio spread enabling the electric motor to operate through a narrower, 0-2000rpm rev range that allows for a more efficient design. The adapted DSG transmission includes an additional clutch that decouples the motors to allow coasting, which is a more efficient use of kinetic energy than recuperation.
The e-tron’s 8.8kWh, 125kg battery lives under the rear seat, while the repositioned fuel tank sits beneath a slightly raised boot floor. Despite the tank’s proximity to the A3’s back end this car can absorb a 50mph rear impact without the plastic tank rupturing. At the other end of this A3 e-tron, neatly hidden behind the four rings of its grille, is the power socket for the charging cable.
Despite its low emission, fuel-saving hardware the e-tron can be considered as both fuel-saver and lightly sporting performance car. It has the scope to achieve a spectacular 188.3mpg – one tester has even managed 235mpg – besides sprinting to 62mph in 7.6sec and topping 138mph. It will also travel at up to 80mph on electric power alone, although its 31-mile range will obviously be compromised by high EV speeds like these.
Those 31 miles are enough to allow most commuting trips to be completed without resort to the petrol engine; this practice encouraged by the automatic defaulting to EV mode on start-up. The petrol engine can instantly be engaged via the kickdown button however, or by using a centre console-mounted rocker switch to toggle to hybrid operation. Because kickdown can demand maximum effort from a cold engine, Audi has reworked this TFSI’s piston rings and liners for wear-protection, and included a sensor to measure oil quality.
The DSG transmission provides the same features as you get in a conventional car, including a manual paddle-shift mode, a creep function and kickdown, your chosen gear indicated in the instrument pack. As is the car’s range, a yellow and green bar graph indicating its distance potential with petrol and electric power. You can also select an energy flow read-out, and the infotainment display provides a box-out highlighting your chosen mode.
Otherwise, the interior looks standard, although an electric heater and air conditioner lie behind the familiar controls on the dashboard. The A3’s exterior appears similar too, there being no additional aerodynamic aids, although it does have low-rolling resistance tyres.
What is it like?
As quiet as any other electric car on take-off, the e-tron’s easy silence provides relaxed, and swift urban progress. That said, your advance isn’t always as smooth as it should be because there’s sometimes a solid thump as drive takes up.
“You can be sure that Dr Hackenberg won’t allow that,” Audi A3 programme manager Alex Pesch wrily says of his boss, this pre-production e-tron not quite the finished article. Nor do you quite enjoy the rangey, seamless power surge that a single-gear pure electric delivers either.
But, however, the familiar sensation of power being parcelled through a multi-speed transmission is a small price to pay for the undoubted efficiency advantage of having an electric motor geared through six forward speeds, as it is in the Volvo V60 diesel plug-in hybrid.
The general integration of petrol engine, transmission and electric motor is otherwise excellent. There are no jolts when the drivetrain is combining or switching between motors, and the 1.4 TFSI has a subtly pleasing rort about it when it’s worked hard. Not inappropriately either, because adding a battery pack, shifting the fuel tank to the rear and installing a particularly light engine means that this A3’s 55:45 front rear weight distribution improves on the diesel’s 60:40 apportioning, to the noticeable benefit of its handling.
The e-tron turns out to be the best-balanced, sweetest-handling A3 in the range, which makes for a pretty satisfying steer. It rides well too, although there’s still some damper calibration work to be carried out. Hopefully that won’t firm things up significantly.
Recharge times vary depending on your power source of course, but you’re looking at 3hrs and 45mins using a 230 volt 10 amp supply, which reduces to 2hrs 15mins with 16 amp power. Either way, an overnight charge, which you can time via switches beside the Audi’s socket, is more than enough.
Should I buy one?
Audi’s A3 e-tron is a fascinating car that has the potential to be very cheap to run, especially given its ultra-low, tax-dodging emissions. It also offers entertainingly strong performance and well-balanced handling to go with it.
The e-tron’s fuel and money-saving potential are best realised if your daily slog to work falls within its 31-mile electric range, in which case the cost of your commute will tumble significantly. And because this is a hybrid, you have the convenience of a 550-mile range using both on-board energy supplies.
True, this e-tron looks likely to cost a good £9000 more than an A3 2.0 TDI Sport when it arrives in summer 2014, but it’s a lot more entertaining and will cost you even less to feed.
Audi A3 e-tron: the full lowdown
Audi UK’s number-crunchers have been trying to calculate the market’s size, to estimate potential demand and help shape the A3 e-tron’s spec. ‘Audi’s plug-in hybrids must be no compromise cars,’ says our source. That translates to a 30-mile electric-only range, CO2 emissions below 76g/km to unlock tax breaks, and a back-up petrol engine to ensure owners aren’t left stranded.
The A3 e-tron’s lithium-ion batteries can be recharged from a socket, unlike the full hybrid A6 and A8 models already on sale. Audi showed a concept A3 e-tron back in 2011, which coupled a 1.4-litre TFSI turbo engine with a 27kW electric motor. Working in parallel, the engine and motor can blast the A3 to 62mph in 6.8sec, though tickle the car around town and a 34-mile pure electric range is promised.
In 2012, UK punters bought just 2226 pure electric cars (like the Nissan Leaf) and uprated hybrids: range-extenders like the Vauxhall Ampera/Chevy Volt, and the plug-in Toyota Prius, whose 15-mile range is half that Audi promises. So, how big will the equivalent market be at the end of 2015? ‘If you accurately knew the answer to that, we’d pay you a lot of money to tell us,’ says our source, only half-jokingly. The market will certainly have grown, as more models – Renault’s electric Zoe, and BMW’s i3 EV and range extender hatch – pile into the segment.
R8 e-tron supercar is axed
A burgeoning recharging network and consistent government incentives will be crucial to nurturing the market. The £5000 rebate for ultra-low emissions cars is only guaranteed until 2015, the life of the current UK parliament. Benefit-in-kind tax still applies to drivers of the Prius plug-in (49g/km of CO2) or Ampera (27g/km), calculated on 5% of the cars’s £33-35k prices. The A3 e-tron is on course to qualify for the same rate of company car tax and London congestion charge exemption – unless politicians change the rules.
While Audi’s eco branding was introduced with the R8 e-tron in 2009, this pure electric halo car has been cancelled, having missed Audi’s ‘late 2012’ timetable for sales. With its lithium-ion battery pack and quad electric motors delivering 3319lb ft of torque, the R8 e-tron lapped the legendary Nürburgring Nordschleife in 8:09 minutes – just 58 seconds slower than the Gumpert Apollo’s production car record. However, the R8 e-tron’s projected high cost, limited range and the lack of demand for a silent supercar means the project has been shelved.
Price £32,700 est; 0-62mph 7.6sec; Top speed 138mph; Economy 188.3mpg; CO2 35g/km; Kerb weight 1574kg; Engine 4cyls, 1395cc, turbocharged petrol, plus synchronous electric motor; Installation transverse, front; Power 1.4 TFSI 148bhp at 5000rpm, electric motor 99bhp, 201bhp combined; Torque 1.4 TFSI 184lb ft 1750-4000rpm, electric motor 243lb ft 0-2000rpm, 258lb ft combined; Gearbox 6-spd dual-clutch automatic.
Reporting from Car Magazine and AutoCar.