Audi R8 e-tron Development Back On: Report

2013 Audi R8 e-tron with 8:09.099 Nürburgring lap time

2013 Audi R8 e-tron with 8:09.099 Nürburgring lap time

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Audi’s R8 e-tron electric sports car prototype set a lap record for a production-based electric car on Germany’s Nürburgring last June, lapping the circuit in an impressive 8:09.099.

At the time, Audi insisted the car would be in (admittedly low-volume) production by the end of 2012, but all that changed in October when Audi’s newly-appointed head of R&D, Wolfgang Dürheimer, put the R8 e-tron project on hold.

Word was that the project was shelved due to high battery costs, or possibly performance concerns when benchmarked against less expensive electric cars (like the Tesla Model S sedan). The future for Audi’s electric supercar looked anything but bright.

Now comes word from Audi website Fourtitude, via Green Car Reports, that the Audi R8 e-tron has resumed development and testing, though that's not to say it will ever see production. The “complete review” of the project demanded last October appears to be just that, and Audi has released a few new details on the car.

Its shape will now mirror the changes seen in the restyled R8, but the e-tron version will get a few aerodynamic tweaks (such as a longer rear diffuser) to drop its coefficient of drag from 0.35 to 0.27.

While a few e-tron prototypes were built with all-wheel drive, Audi’s focus now appears to be on rear-drive only, using a pair of electric motors to produce 376 horsepower and 604 pound-feet of torque. That’s enough thrust to get the 3,924 pound car from 0-100 km/h (62 mph) in just 4.2 seconds.

If you’re keeping score at home, that’s now faster than a Tesla Model S Performance version, giving the Audi R8 e-tron the necessary bragging rights. Expect handling to be superb, since the 1,272-pound lithium-ion battery pack is mounted as low as possible to drop the car’s center of gravity.

To further shave as many pounds as possible, the R8 e-tron will ride on fiberglass-reinforced polymer springs (instead of steel), use titanium wheel hubs and benefit from an aluminum and carbon fiber anti-roll bar. All of these components could likely find their way into other R8 models, justifying the expense of development and testing.

What remains uncertain is whether the R8 e-tron will actually see production. If it does, price will certainly be an issue, especially in light of the car’s relatively modest range (estimated to be 133 miles on the combined Euro cycle, but probably closer to 100 miles in the real world).

Whether or not the R8 e-tron is built, we still think that Audi deserves recognition for thinking outside the usual luxury sports car box.
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