The high-tech Audi R8 E-tron is being tested on public roads to start a development program that Ingolstadt insiders say will have the all-electric, four-wheel-drive supercar on sale in North America by the end of 2012.
Audi plans a 1,000-unit run of the R8 E-tron, with each car built to order. The program is a first step toward building higher volume E-tron-badged models.
Pricing of the electric R8 has not yet been revealed. However, Audi officials say it likely will cost more than the existing R8 V8, which sells for $114,200 in the United States. As a comparison, the Lotus Elise-based Tesla roadster retails for $109,000.
The prototype version of the R8 E-tron spotted undergoing testing on public roads adheres closely to the original concept wheeled out at the 2009 Frankfurt motor show.
Clues to the new Audi’s electric driveline come by way of its complete lack of external cooling ducts. In keeping with the concept, it also has a blanked-off rear screen.
At 167.7 inches long, 74.8 inches wide and 48.4 inches tall, the R8 E-tron is 6.7 inches shorter and roughly the same width and height as the R8 V8. The R8 E-tron also rides on a wheelbase that, at 102.7 inches, is 2.0 inches shorter than its mid-engine Audi sibling.
There’s no official word on whether Audi plans both right- and left-hand-drive versions of the R8 E-tron, but engineers say the modular nature of the driveline makes it possible to provide both without expensive re-engineering of the car.
The R8 E-tron is propelled by a four independent electric motors--two mounted in the center of the front axle and the other two within the rear axle. Each produces 78 hp and 830 lb-ft of torque. This provides the car with a total of 313 hp and an immense 3,319 lb-ft at the wheels--the latter relating to about 502 lb-ft in real-world terms, according to Audi.
The motors draw electricity from a 53-kilowatt/hour lithium-ion battery pack mounted behind the passenger compartment in the space usually taken up by the standard R8’s gasoline engine. The battery and its associated electronics package, converter and wiring loom, weighs a total of 880 pounds. Each electric motor is mated to its own single-speed gearbox. The motors are cooled via the air-conditioning system.
Audi claims the production version of the R8 E-tron will be capable of a 0-to-62-mph time of about 4.8 seconds, making it 0.2 second slower than the R8 V8.
Initial plans call for the car’s top speed to be limited to 124 mph to protect the charge of the battery, although the final specification won’t be locked in for another year.
In addition to the R8 E-tron, Audi is considering a smaller zero-emission sports car based around the R4 E-tron concept shown at this year’s Detroit auto show. Also in the early stages of development is a new small car, to be badged the A2, running a similar electric system to the unit showcased at the Geneva motor show in the A1 E-tron.