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Shanghai show: Audi goes plug-in with A3 e-Tron

Pluged in: Audi has revealed an A3 sedan-based e-Tron plug-in hybrid concept at the Shanghai show.

Audi A3 e-Tron sedan unveiled as prestige brand drives towards an electric future

19 Apr 2011

AUDI’S $A12 billion splurge on future technologies is continuing to bear fruit with the appearance of yet another electrified e-Tron concept, this time a plug-in hybrid based on the next-generation A3 sedan.

The petrol-electric car, which is said to be good for 54km on electric power before the 155kW 1.4-litre TFSI engine kicks in, was revealed today beside the all-new Audi Q3 at the Shanghai motor show.

The unveiling of the electrified version comes just days after Audi released sketches of the A3 hatchback, and just weeks after the A3 sedan concept was shown at the 2011 Geneva motor show.

Built on Volkswagen Group’s new MBQ platform that will also spawn the next VW Golf, the A3 is expected to be aimed primarily at Europe in hatchback form, while the sedan will target the United States and China – the latter being Audi’s biggest market.

The Shanghai concept is the fifth electrified car from Audi bearing the e-Tron moniker since 2009, when the original full-electric e-Tron two-door sports coupe was shown at Frankfurt.

An R8 e-Tron super coupe with four electric motors driving the wheels is expected to be the first electric Audi to hit the showrooms, going into production in 2012.

7 center imageLeft: Audi A3 e-Tron. Below: Audi R8 Spyder GT sketch, Audi A3 hatch design sketch, Audi A3 sedan as seen at the 2011 Geneva show.

But that is expected to be just one of a wave of hybrid and full-electric models across the Audi range from Volkswagen’s premium division, including the previously announced A6 hybrid and Q5 hybrid.

The appearance of the A3 e-Tron sedan concept at Shanghai suggests a hybrid version of the second-smallest Audi model is also being prepared for launch at some point after the arrival of the conventional petrol and diesel versions next year.

To improve both performance and range, Audi was at pains to keep the weight of the A3 e-Tron down, adopting aluminium for the doors, bonnet and boot, plus a carbon-fibre grille. It tips the scales at 1730kg, 15kg heavier than GM’s similar style range-extender Volt.

The 155kW four-cylinder engine is mated with a 20kW electric motor for a combined output of 175kW, which Audi says is good enough to shoot the e-Tron from standstill to 100km/h in 6.8 seconds and on to a top speed of 231km/h.

Its lithium-ion batteries can store 12kWh of electricity, and can be charged from a household power socket or the on-board energy recovery system when the car is in motion.

The VW’s Group’s seven-speed dual-clutch transmission – called S tronic by Audi – supplies drive to the front wheels.

Inside, the tachometer has been replaced by a “power meter” with a needle that indicates the total system output on a scale from zero to 100 per cent.

A second scale divided into coloured segments shows if the e-Tron concept is drawing its power from the electric motor, the engine or a combination of both. A battery charge level meter is also included.

The exterior of the A3 e-Tron is identical in most regards to the A3 sedan shown at Geneva, although the grille gets more horizontal bars and the 20-inch alloy wheels get more spokes.

The Shanghai concept is a four-seater, although that will almost certainly evolve into five seats by the time the production car rolls around.

Swathed in light-grey finishes with dark brown highlights, the cabin is, like the exterior, near identical to the Geneva show car.

Likewise, the MacPherson strut front suspension and four-link rear suspension is similar to the sports suspension of the Geneva concept.

Audi announced in December that it would sink an unprecedented $A15 billion into the development of facilities and future models, with about 80 per cent ($A12 billion) of that going on future technologies.

Meanwhile, Audi has released sketches of its upcoming drop-top Spyder version of its performance flagship R8 GT.

The limited-edition supercar is expected to break cover at the the Le Mans 24-Hour race in June ahead of a Frankfurt motor show launch in September.

Like the GT Coupe, the Spyder will be a stripped-out variant for hard-core performance, propelled by the high-power 412kW version of the Lamborghini-sourced V10.

Audi built just 333 R8 GT Coupes, with only five coming to Australia. A similar number of R8 GT Spyders is also expected to roll off the production line.

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