Audi launches fully electric e-tron in San Francisco

Audi’s milestone all-electric SUV makes its world debut, paving the way for a new wave of battery-powered Audi models.
Audi launches fully electric e-tron in San Francisco
Courtesy of Audi

Audi’s first ever fully electric model - the e-tron - has made its world debut in San Francisco. The vehicle incorporates powerful front and rear electric motors and a large high-voltage battery, delivering high performance and agility. These features combined enable the vehicle to achieve a potential acceleration in under six seconds and a driving range of at least 248 miles. The new SUV is complemented by a comprehensive range of charging options for home and on the move and by the latest in-car communication, entertainment and assistance technologies.

Two electric motors drive the electric SUV powerfully, free of emissions, and almost silently, with a system output of up to 300 kW and 664 Nm (489.7 lb-ft) of torque. Peak torque is available within fractions of a second, enabling the e-tron to complete the standard sprint in 5.7 seconds. Top speed is an electronically-limited 124mph.

Electric all-wheel drive enables handling on any terrain and  in any weather condition. It continuously and fully variably regulates the ideal distribution of drive between the two axles – within a fraction of a second. In most cases, the electric SUV mainly uses its rear electric motor in order to achieve the highest efficiency. If the driver demands more power than it can supply, the electric all-wheel drive redistributes torque as required to the front axle. This also happens predictively even before slip occurs in icy conditions or when cornering fast, or if the car understeers or oversteers.

A key feature is the low and central position in which the drive components are installed. The battery system is optimally matched to the dimensions and is located between the axles in the form of a flat, broad block beneath the passenger compartment. This configuration makes the Audi e-tron’s centre of gravity similar to that of a saloon car. Axle load distribution is perfectly balanced at almost 50:50.

With Audi drive select, the driver can vary the characteristics of the Audi e-tron between seven profiles depending on the driving situation, road conditions or personal preferences. The system also influences the standard air suspension with adaptive dampers. The pneumatic springs adjust individually to the road conditions depending on the speed and the driver’s preferences, varying the ride height by as much as 76 millimetres. At higher, motorway-appropriate speeds on longer journeys the e-tron is therefore able to adopt a lower stance in the interest of aerodynamics, and consequently of range.

The Audi e-tron can cover more than 248 miles on a single charge in the WLTP test cycle. This value is due primarily to the innovative recuperation system, which is responsible for up to 30 per cent of the range. The electric SUV can recover energy in two ways: by means of coasting recuperation when the driver releases the accelerator, or by means of braking recuperation when the brake pedal is depressed.

In both cases, the electric motors function as a generator and convert the kinetic energy of the Audi e-tron into electric energy. At up to 0.3 g of deceleration, the electric SUV recuperates solely via the electric motors. This is the case well over 90 percent of the time. The wheel brakes are involved only when the driver decelerates by more than 0.3 g using the brake pedal. They respond extremely quickly, thanks to a new electrohydraulic actuation concept. Audi is the first manufacturer worldwide to use this concept in a series production vehicle with electric drive. When braking from 62mph, for example, the Audi e-tron can recuperate electric power with a maximum of 300 Nm (221.3 lb-ft) and 220 kW. That corresponds to more than 70 percent of its operating energy input. No other series production model can achieve such a value.

Depending on the driving situation, the electrohydraulically integrated brake control system decides whether the SUV will use the electric motor, the wheel brake or a combination of the two acting on each axle individually for recuperation. The transition between electric and hydraulic braking is smooth and homogeneous, so the driver does not even notice it. Brake forces remain constant.

Another key contributor to the high efficiency of the Audi e-tron is the sophisticated aerodynamics. One highlight of this concept is the optional virtual exterior mirrors – a world first in a series production model. Integrated into each of the mirror supports is a small camera transmitting images to high-contrast OLED displays inside the vehicle.

Other aerodynamic solutions fulfil their purpose hidden away from sight, such as the air suspension and the fully lined underbody with its aluminium plate to protect the high-voltage battery. These reduce drag, as does the adjustable cooling air intake. It includes channels for cooling the front brakes and serves as a switching point for the complex thermal management system with the standard heat pump. Benefits of the thermal management system include unwavering high performance even under high load, long battery life and fast DC recharging.

When equipped with the virtual exterior mirrors, the Audi e-tron achieves a Cd value of 0.27, which is a top result in the SUV segment. With a typical use profile, that drag coefficient provides for a range advantage of approximately 25 miles per battery charge versus a comparable, conventionally powered vehicle.

The large high-voltage battery in the Audi e-tron can store up to 95 kWh of energy and is thus the foundation for the long range. There is generally no need to stop at charging stations during everyday driving. On long trips customers can use fast charging stations to charge with direct current (DC) at up to 150 kW – a first for a series-production car. This means that the Audi e-tron is all set for the next long-distance stretch of a journey in approximately half an hour. The electric SUV can also be recharged with alternating current (AC) at up to 11 kW; recharging with 22 kW is available as an option.

A proprietary Audi charging service provides e-tron customers with easy access to roughly 80 percent of the public charging stations in Europe. Whether it’s AC or DC, 11 kW or 150 kW – a single card is all customers need to start the process. The procedure will become even more convenient with the function Plug & Charge, which will follow in 2019: The car self-authorises at the charging station and activates it.

Audi offers various solutions for charging at home. The standard mobile charging system can be used with either a 230 volt household outlet or a 400 volt three-phase outlet. The optional “connect” charging system doubles the charging power to as much as 22 kW. Combined with a home energy management system, it offers intelligent functions such as charging when electricity is less expensive or with solar electricity if the home is equipped with a photovoltaic system. Audi customers can control all charging processes as well as pre-heating/pre-cooling via their smartphone with the myAudi app.

The Audi e-tron has been reinterpreted for the electric age by new, stylistically defining details. Typically for one of the brand’s SUV models, the Audi e-tron bears the octagonal-design Singleframe grille with vertical struts. Its centre section is largely enclosed and presented in platinum grey – identifying it as a fully electric model. At the lower edge of the Matrix LED headlights, four horizontal struts create the e-tron-specific signature in the daytime running lights. For the first time this is integrated directly into the headlights. The expressive design of the sill area with the black inserts visualises the location of the battery and thus the energy centre of the Audi e-tron. At the rear, slats in the wide diffuser draw attention to the omission of exhaust pipes. The e-tron logo on the charging flap and, as an option, on the brake callipers stand out in the high-voltage signal colour orange.

The e-tron also has a spacious, airy interior. Two large MMI touch response displays are angled in the driver’s direction, replacing nearly every conventional switch and control. Many functions can also be controlled via the natural voice control system. With the standard Audi virtual cockpit, the driver can choose between two views that clearly present all information in the form of sharp, high-resolution graphics. The optional Audi virtual cockpit plus offers a third screen that highlights the electric drive system.

In the German market, the Audi e-tron features the high-end MMI navigation plus media centre as standard, including LTE Advanced and Wi-Fi hotspot. The navigation system makes intelligent destination suggestions based on previous routes, ideally supplemented by the e-tron route planner. This displays the suitable route with the required charging points. The navigation system considers not only the battery’s charge but also the traffic situation and includes the required charging time in its arrival time calculation.

Numerous assist systems make the drive even more relaxing, including the standard efficiency assist. With predictive tips in the Audi virtual cockpit and automatic recuperation, it helps the driver to drive economically. The system uses radar sensors, camera images, navigation data and Car-to-X information to detect the traffic environment and the route. In combination with the adaptive cruise assist, the efficiency assist can also brake and accelerate the electric SUV predictively. Backing the assist systems is the central driver assistance controller, which continuously computes an exact model of the environment. The required data is obtained – depending on the selected options – from up to five radar sensors, six cameras, twelve ultrasound sensors and the laser scanner.

The Audi e-tron will be the brand’s first model to allow customers to add certain functions online whenever the need for them arises. This will be possible from mid-2019 onwards. For example, the LED headlights can be upgraded to matrix LED headlights with intelligently controlled high beams, and assist systems or infotainment extras such as DAB+ digital radio and the Audi smartphone interface can be added.

The Audi e-tron rolls off the assembly line at the CO2-neutral plant in Brussels, and is set to open for order in the UK in early 2019 with an RRP of £70,805.

Image:  The Audi e-tron offers sub-six-second 0-62mph acceleration, a range of at least 248miles and impressive energy recuperation and charging functionality.

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