Audi has been a company who’s history has been cemented in the world of diesel engines. With win after win after win in endurance races like Le Mans and the ALMS with silent, torquey diesel engines in the R8, R10 and new R15. For years, diesel Audi’s have sold incredibly well overseas in Europe where fuel prices truly dominate the buyer’s decision process for purchasing a vehicle. Even that has permeated the U.S. market as Audi recently launched a “Clean Diesel” campaign with the introduction of the Q7 and A3 diesel variants to a market that had, until gas prices skyrocketed last summer, largely ignored the oil burning engines for the last few decades and the efficiencies they held.
However, Audi is now refocusing some of it’s innovative talent to look at other alternative fuel sources and taking the path of electric vehicles. Last month at the 2009 Frankfurt Auto Show, Audi debuted the future of its innovative initiative toward with the eTron concept. The eTron is constructed on an aluminum space frame similar to the R8 but makes use of light weight plastics and fibers to further cut weight when it comes to the individual body panels. On the outside, the e-Tron looks like a somewhat restyled R8 with narrow head lamps, stylized tail lamps from an A5 and then the same sort of intakes flanking the doors to feed when a combustion engine should be.
While the e-Tron vaguely resembles an R8 with regard to the exterior, but under the skin the R8 and e-Tron are worlds apart. Powered by 4 small electric motors, each powering an individual wheel, the e-Tron maintains true 4 wheel drive and is good for a range up to 150 miles on a single charge. The individual engines are powered by lithium-ion battery packs developed by Sanyo and allows the e-Tron to produce 313 horsepower and return a 0 to 60 time of 4.8 seconds. What is more impressive is that president of Audi America, Johan de Nyschen, stated that the U.S. should see a low production series version of the e-Tron by sometime in 2012. Other reports put working test mules up and running sometime within the next 12 to 24 months so that Audi can begin to workout the kinks and get the car ready for production.
We’re glad to see Audi taking a wider reaching approach to the current initiative to go green by many car makers. The e-Tron demonstrates what Audi can accomplish in a very short amount development time while stifling competition from the likes of BMW and their EfficientDynamics concept that is a diesel/electric hybrid. We’re also interested to see how the production of the electric Audi vehicles affects the diesel models currently existing in the range. Will Audi phase diesels out over time in favor of fully electric models? Will the final product mode of the e-Tron be a strictly electric vehicle? Only time will tell but we’re excited to see what Audi has up their sleeves with the use of alternative fuel sources.
(Source: New York Times)