Rummaging through the CleanTechnica attic recently, I found this story about the Audi E-Tron from our sister site, Gas2, written by a fellow I hold in the highest esteem. It says, in relevant part, “When Audi first teased us with the prospect of an electric Audi R8, the car promised thrilling performance but an underwhelming range of ‘just’ 130 miles. It wasn’t enough, and the concept was shelved quietly in 2013. Such is the pace of battery technology, however, that the batteries in the new-for-2015 Audi R8 e-tron have pushed its range up to 280 miles.”
The long and torturous history of the on-again, off-again Audi E-Tron is a parable for the modern electric car industry — plenty of promises, precious little performance. Audi is part of the great Volkswagen empire and while it has some autonomy within the group, its offerings are carefully calibrated to mesh with those from the parent company and with those from Porsche. Unlike the heydays of General Motors, when every division built their own engines and transmissions, cars from the VW group share a few basic engines, especially the ubiquitous 2.0 liter 4-cylinder turbo.
As the electric car era dawned, Audi took the lead in creating electric cars within the VW group. The various E-Tron iterations demonstrated how quickly things were changing for electric cars in the past 5 years. Then Porsche was tasked with developing the Mission E battery electric sedan and the Audi E-Tron faded into the background.
A digital version of of the Audi E-Tron cropped up in the latest Gran Turismo video game. Many manufacturers have debuted concept cars in Gran Turismo. It’s an inexpensive way to gauge interest from customers. No prototypes to build, no hauling the concept around the world on the show circuit. But now Audi has built a real concept car based on the digital version. It is expected to be revealed to the public for the first time this weekend as part of the Formula E race weekend in Rome.
While the car will obviously share a great deal of the technology being pioneered for the Porsche Mission E, the Audi will have something the Porsche won’t — two 200 kW motors at the rear and one up front to provide advanced torque vectoring and all wheel drive. With a total output of 805 horsepower and weighing just a shade more than 3,000 pounds, the E-Tron can theoretically do the leap from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 2.4 seconds. Yes, we know the Tesla Roadster 2.0 will do it in 1.9 seconds or less, but there’s more to performance than just that metric. For instance, the Tesla won’t have torque vectoring, so far as we know.
Audi claims the E-Tron will be compatible with fast-charging equipment with up to 150 kW of power for rapidly replenishing the battery on longer journeys. As far as the price, range, or availability for the car? No one knows for sure at this juncture. Will the car ever make it into production or is it just more vaporware from Ingolstadt? “We’ll see,” said the Zen master.
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