Is the Audi R8 e-tron Finally Ready For Production? (GENEVA)

Written By: EightySix

Edited By: Assen Gueorguiev

2016 Audi R8 e-Tron (aLL-eLECTRIC) - 2015 Geneva Auto Show. Photo Credit - Auto Blog 

This week at the Geneva Auto Show, Audi once again revealed an electric super-coupe. Back at the 2009 Frankfurt Motor Show, we got our first look at a four motor all-wheel drive e-tron speedster. After ten prototypes were built, the project was halted due to poor battery range.

Audi displayed an electric R8 for the first time in 2011, again in Frankfurt. This rear-wheel drive model was nearly as quick off the line as the gas version. The following year at Nürburgring, it set the electric car record with a time of 8:09.099.

But the 49 kWh battery pack was good for only a couple of laps and could not stand up to abuse on the Autobahn. Audi hit the pause button again.

More Wattage in this Cottage

The old ICE saying is: "There's no replacement for displacement." The EV crowd knows to get more on the track, you need more in the pack. So Audi built a Tesla-and-then-some 92 kWh lithium-ion unit. Energy density has increased from 84 Wh/kg to 154 Wh/kg. The T-shaped pack fits behind and between the seats.

The range has increased from 134 to 280 miles. Utilizing both AC and DC, the Combined Charging System will fill the battery in less than two hours. CCS charging stations are more common in Europe, but are also growing across the American West Coast.

The batteries still likely weigh three-quarters of a ton. How to keep the R8 e-tron from driving like a tank? Lots of carbon fiber reinforced plastic. The CFRP and copious amounts of aluminum contribute to a space frame and body shell that weigh only 441 pounds while increasing torsional rigidity by 40%.

2016 Audi R8 e-tron at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show. Photo Credit - Auto Blog 

But Does It Zip?

It zips. Not quite to a P85D 3.2 second 0-60, but to a thrilling 3.9. Top speed can be governed at 131 or 155 mph. The drag coefficient is only .28, but still behind the Model S's .24. Torque vectoring controls the power to the individual rear motors to guide the R8 through curves. Total power output is 456 horsepower and 678 pound-feet of torque.

Audi's most powerful electric and plug-in vehicles will constantly be compared to Tesla's. At least they do compare. The 2009 e-tron concept launched the same year as the Roadster. The R8 e-tron continues to nip at the heels of the Model S. The Q7 e-tron, although a PHEV, should be a worthy option to the Model X when both go up for sale.

Although Audi's broad-reaching e-tron project left the launch-pad later than Tesla, it persistently puts pressure on Elon Musk's team. Knowing this, Audi is developing technology in the R8 e-tron with the intention of "creating a vehicle with sedan character". Audi is certainly planning a Model S competitor. Give us four seats and room for the parents so we can scare them do death with ridiculous electric zero-to-sixties.

Where and When Can We Buy One?

You'll have to order one later in 2015. They will be made one at a time for interested buyers. The price is rumored to be anywhere from $115,000 to as much as $250,000. The R8 e-tron remains a thrilling experiment. The technology is trickling down to its SUVs and smaller cars like the A3.

The average consumer continues to look up at twinkling stars like this one, wondering when the brilliance will be scaled down to a practical level. Are esoteric projects like the R8 e-tron necessary to draw attention to EV potential? Would a company be successful aiming at the middle-class car buyer instead?