Audi tossed its most-impressive marker into the electric supercar game at Frankfurt by introducing the striking e-tron concept. This zero-emission, all-wheel-drive two-seater embodies its own sense of style while showcasing a number of innovative technologies that Audi plans to introduce on various production models in the years ahead. Although based on the same aluminum spaceframe architecture that underpins Audi's conventional R8 model, the e-tron pack four individually controllable electric motors fed by a high-capacity lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery pack mounted behind its passenger compartment. Collectively, these motors make 313 horsepower but crank out a mind-boggling 3,319 lb-ft of total torque, which can be selectively vectored to the wheel/wheels best able to use it at any given moment. Audi claims the 3,527-pound e-tron can run 0-60 mph in 4.8 seconds and travel 154 miles on a single charge. However, given the range-ravaging impact that achieving true supercar speeds exacts, the e-tron's top speed is limited to 124 mph. The car's chassis also has been tuned to optimize the potential of its EV powertrain, which normally sends 70 percent of the driving force to the rear wheels.
Audi also gave this intriguing one-off a host of additional range-enhancing tricks, from a full brake-by-wire system that allows near-total conversion of heat energy from its big carbon-ceramic brakes into electricity to the first-ever automotive application of a dedicated heat pump. Similar in concept to those used in buildings, the heat pump is at that heart of the car's super-efficient climate control package and is integrated with the e-tron's overall thermal management system to keep its battery, motors and electronic controller operating in their proper temperature ranges. To supplement its conventional plug-in recharging technology, Audi also is working on a new, more user-friendly "wireless" induction-type charging system. The e-tron also has been fitted with a prototype information processing system that Audi calls "car-to-x communication. It's capable of supporting a high-speed two-way information stream between vehicles or other types of fixed-location infrastructure points without having to pass the data through any central monitoring point.
Inside its well-finished cabin, the e-tron offers a look at Audi's future think on how to optimize the basic man/machine interface. The ultra-clean look is highlighted by the near-absence of conventional switchgear and an elegantly floating dash treatment. Instrumentation consists of a fold-out center display that permits viewing of the full range of integrated MMI (Multi Mode Interface) function choices, including navigation and infotainment. It's flanked by a speedometer and a power usage meter while touch pads on the steering wheel control MMI options much like one selects functions on an iPhone.