By Jody McCutcheon
If at first you don’t succeed…
Thank heavens for perseverance. Six years after a first try, Audi has succeeded in creating a production-ready, fully electric sports car. It’s called the r8 e-tron (heck, call it the 2.0) and it’s quite an improvement over the quaint but flawed concept electric vehicle—aka the 1.0—first displayed six years ago at the 2009 Frankfurt Motor Show.
The new, improved r8 e-tron debuted at the 2015 Geneva International Motor Show featuring some impressive numbers, comparable to both the Tesla Model S and the Detroit Electric SP:01. This second version offers a 92kWh lithium-ion battery—a significant upgrade on the 1.0’s 49kWh battery—that’s based on new technology specifically designed for an all-electric vehicle.
The battery pack powers rear wheel–mounted electric motors, generating about 340Kw (455 hp) and up to 920Nm (679lb-ft) of torque. With all that juice, this electric version should be able to outrun the old V-8 model. The r8 e-tron accelerates from 0–100kph in 3.9 seconds, boasting a top speed of 250kph (155mph). However, a governed top speed of 210kph (130mph) helps extend the range to an impressive 450km (280 miles), with the help of maximum efficiency, low rolling–resistance tires.
Compare these numbers with the first version’s rather, um, pedestrian stats of 233Kw (313hp), 681Nm (502lb-ft) of torque, 0–100 in 5.2 seconds, a top speed of 201kph, and a range of less than 241 km. Again, thank heavens that Audi had the patience and vision to nurture its dream of a sexy, high-performance EV.
Constructed from aluminum and carbon fibre, the lightweight but durable “Audi Space Frame” will allow the r8 to maximize acceleration and speed. Other notable features include rear-wheel drive, LED headlights and an electromechanical brake system that facilitates regenerative braking. And you won’t wait long to go from empty battery to full speed. According to Audi, fast-charging hardware charges the vehicle’s battery in under two hours.
The r8 e-tron also offers an optional autonomous-driving mode. The tech behind it incorporates a specially developed laser scanner, video cameras, ultrasonic sensors and radar sensors. Working together, this equipment gathers sensory information and communicates it to the central driver assistance control unit, allowing for the creation of an accurate image of the vehicle’s surroundings. Thus the auto-drive computer can make driving decisions and execute them.
Unfortunately, auto-drive mode probably won’t allow the vehicle to realize its full performance potential. Which begs the question: Why add an auto-drive mode at all? Don’t you want the speed and exhilaration of driving the r8 e-tron yourself?
For now, production of the r8 e-tron is limited, with a price tag yet to be determined. Expect production to ramp up by 2017. Don’t, however, expect this vehicle to be cheap. But you’ll get what you pay for.