Audi R8 e-Tron All-Electric Sports Car (CONCEPT)

Written By: EightySix

Edited By: Assen Gueorguiev

Will we ever drive an Audi R8 e-Tron?

                                                                 audi r8 e-tron (concept)

The same year Tesla put the Roadster up for sale, Audi dropped a lightning bolt on the 2009 Frankfurt Motor Show. They unveiled a two seat all-electric sports coupe similar in shape but slightly smaller than the R8. It had one motor for each wheel, providing a combined 309 horsepower. Zero to sixty acceleration was 4.8 seconds with a governed top speed of 124 miles per hour. Audi claimed a 154 mile range from the 42.4 kWh lithium-ion battery.

The Roadster suddenly had a nemesis. If Audi got this rocket into production, Tesla would no longer sit alone on the electric super car throne.

Audi built ten prototypes for research, but was disappointed with the range and soon suspended the project.

The e-Tron Master Plan

Audi sees the future is electric. In addition to an electric super car, their engineers have displayed concept versions of another e-Tron sports coupe at the 2010 North American International Auto Show, a plug-in hybrid A1, a plug-in hybrid Spyder and an all-electric A3. The 2016 Audi A3 e-Tron Sportback plug-in hybrid is expected to hit the market in late 2015. At 750 pounds heavier than the standard A3, skeptics doubt its performance and range. The diesel version already has a reputation for performance, value and efficiency.

While Mercedes, Smart and Toyota have been glad to utilize Tesla batteries and motors, Audi has persisted in developing their own. So far, this has been the major problem. The company has a successful history building cars both practical and exotic. They craft solid gasoline and diesel engines. But since the Frankfurt show, they have had trouble with electric range.

Audi R8 e-Tron (Concept)

The Next R8 e-Tron Chapter

Audi returned to Frankfurt in 2011 with another e-Tron super car concept, which was built directly on the R8 platform. Performance statistics were similar to the 2009 version, except that this time around it was only rear-wheel drive. Just two-tenths of a second in the zero-to-sixty separated it from the V8 version. On June 26th, 2012, it set the electric car lap record at Nürburgring with a time of 8:09.099.

Top Gear's Paul Horrell got to give one a whirl. He was impressed not only by the typical EV jet-like thrust off the line, but with how the torque-vectoring from the independent rear motors shoved the car through turns. The "fiendishly complex" system of regenerative, hydraulic and electrically actuated brakes was surprisingly natural.

Audi once again built ten prototypes and in May 2013, once again, halted production due to a lack of electric range. Test drivers went flat-out at Nürburgring for two laps and killed the battery in under seventeen minutes. In March 2014, Audi decided to build R8 e-Trons upon customer request only.

If Iron Man has One...

Robert Downey Junior's character Tony Stark zipped around in an R8 e-Tron during Iron Man 3. The product placement earned Audi some more R&D cash. Technical director Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg revealed that a new type of battery increased the concept range to over 240 miles. The project was given the green light again.

The e-Tron's movie appearance was another chapter in the Audi-versus-Tesla follow-the-leader story. Elon Musk's Space X factory was one of the locations for Iron Man 2.

In August of 2014, South Korea's LG Chem signed an agreement with Audi to provide 48-volt lithium-ion batteries for their next generation of EVs. Perhaps this gave them the boost they needed to move forward with the project.

Hackenberg says an all-electric R8 and a plug-in hybrid version will become available next year, not long after the release of the latest V8 and V10 R8. The hybrid will be based on the Lamborghini Asterion power-train, which uses a V10 and three electric motors to create 897 horsepower to all four wheels with a pure electric range of 30 miles.

Will it Change the World?

It already has. Competition is the mother of invention. Audi is surfing the wake of the Tesla Roadster, nearly reaching but continually missing the boat.

The electric car arms race needs this rivalry, like Honda needs Toyota, Lamborghini needs Ferrari and the Dodge Ram needs the F150. Without the Roadster, Audi would never have the passion to build the R8 e-Tron.