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Audi to build electric sportscar based on e-Tron concept

All go: The Audi e-Tron electric supercar is expected to hit the road in two years.

Audi of America chief’s remarks spark expected 2012 EV sportscar launch

15 Oct 2009

A SPORTSCAR based on Audi’s incredible high-performance e-Tron electric coupe concept could reach showrooms across the world in 2012, after confirmation from the German prestige car marque that running examples are expected on the road within 24 months.

Audi of America president Johan de Nysschen – the man who was last month forced to defend comments that the forthcoming Chevrolet/Holden Volt was “a car for idiots” – has told US journal Automotive News that an EV based on the e-Tron show car would enter production.

“I expect we will see running examples in the next 24 months,” he said.

One of the stars of the Frankfurt motor show last month, the stunning e-Tron features a full-electric drivetrain comprising four motors – two each at the front and rear axles – for a unique take on Audi’s quattro credentials.

Its combined output is 230kW of power and a phenomenal 4500Nm of torque, enabling the two-seater coupe to accelerate from 0-100km/h in a claimed 4.8 seconds. The lithium-ion battery offers 42.4kW/h and a range of up to 248km.

Reportedly based on the R8 supercar, the e-Tron is 4260mm long and rests on a 2600mm wheelbase – specifications that place it in between the current TT and R8 and have prompted speculation that it will herald another all-new model series from Audi – with conventional as well as electrified powertrains – dubbed the R4.

7 center imageOverseas reports also suggest that the production version of the ‘R4’ will be based on the underpinnings of the next-generation Porsche Boxster/Cayman, and will be offered as both a coupe and cabriolet.

GoAuto was among the Australian media to break the news ahead of the Frankfurt motor show that Audi was planning to enter the EV race with a high-performance top-end sportscar.

Speaking at the opening of Audi Australia’s new $50 million ‘Lighthouse’ dealership and national headquarters in Sydney in August, Audi AG board member Peter Schwarzenbauer said: “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.” Mr Schwarzenbauer also questioned the small EV strategy adopted by its most direct luxury rivals in BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

“If you go back to the past, all major new technology was introduced top-down. I have a hard time to understand that now the only discussion about electric cars is very small cars,” he said.

“I don’t know how much environmentally you have to be convinced that you spend the double of the money to drive electric. So I don’t see that this is a real business case and I think the electric car technology has to be introduced like all the other technologies in the world – top down.” Audi of America’s Mr de Nysschen made headlines across the globe in September when he reportedly told a journalist that General Motors’ Volt hybrid was “a car for idiots”.

In response, Mr de Nysschen issued a statement that claimed he did not remember using those exact words – but did not dispute the sentiment behind them.

In light of the latest developments with the e-Tron, Mr de Nysschen’s comments also serve to reinforce the position of his colleagues at the highest level, including Mr Schwarzenbauer.

“Let me clearly state that, in my opinion, electric vehicles will be part of the future transportation of society – but only if we go about it the right way. In fact, Audi is working on electric vehicles,” Mr de Nysschen said.

“I do not specifically recall using the term ‘car for idiots’ during my informal conversation with the writer. It was certainly not my intention to leave the impression that I’m opposed to electrical vehicles, and if I was unclear on either of those points then I need to eat crow.

“What I do recall is the essence of my contention, namely that the feasibility of the Chevrolet Volt as a concept is questionable. And that policy decisions – and the industry’s reactions to those decisions – are leading us toward a technology that may sound tempting on the surface, but, as of now, also contains many deep and unsolved economic and technological compromises.

“‘Mass electrification’ of the vehicles on American roads could lead to problems like a strained electric grid. Large-scale utilisation of electric vehicles will require massive investment in new power stations that are much cleaner than the ones in use in the US today.

“Otherwise, it could merely shift greenhouse gas emissions from the tailpipes of cars to the smokestacks of coal-burning utilities. That’s not just my opinion. The California Air Resource Board this past April concluded that electric vehicles presently are second only to hydrogen cars in greenhouse gas impact when measured on a well-to-wheel basis.

“Returning to the Volt, my point was simply one of its economic feasibility today. The 50 per cent or so price increase that the Volt represents over a similar gasoline (petrol engine) car cannot be offset through the savings from reduced fuel consumption. The only way to offset the extreme premium for the Volt is through taxpayer-funded subsidies. So I question if that makes economic sense.

“Does that mean the Volt and other electric vehicles are forever impractical? Of course not.

“The future of automotive transportation lies not in any one ‘silver bullet’, but in a range of technologies that meet different needs – all while lowering emissions and fuel consumption.

“That includes plug-in electric cars when technological and economic hurdles make them more practical. It includes hybrid vehicles. And it includes clean diesel along with substantially more efficient takes on today’s gasoline internal combustion engines.”

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