We've seen the Audi e-tron concept in its various guises over the past few auto shows, but this week’s 2010 Geneva Motor Show is hosting a design study for Audi's first high-volume electric vehicle, the Audi A1 e-tron. The concept will also mark the establishment of the e-tron range, which Audi is planning as a "quattro-like" brand within its ranks.

The Audi A1 e-tron on show in Geneva is being touted as Audi's Mega City Vehicle--not to be confused with BMW's Project i car of the same name. In an interesting move, the A1 e-tron is not a pure electric vehicle but rather a plug-in hybrid equipped with a range-extending internal combustion engine. This latter component, however, is not your typical mill. Instead, it's a rotary Wankel engine mated to an electrical generator designed to top up the car’s lithium-ion batteries. These batteries then power an electric motor rated at 61 horsepower and 110 pound-feet of continuous output with peak power of 102 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque, which is used to drive the car’s front wheels via a single-speed transmission.

The integration of such a diverse range of technologies shows the holistic approach that Audi is pursuing with electric mobility, the end result of which is the ability to use the energy with the lowest possible losses. Additionally, Audi has developed a special thermal management system to keep the battery, the electric motor, and the power electronics within their respective ideal temperature windows.

The Audi A1 e-tron can drive 31 miles on a single charge before its range-extending Wankel rotary engine needs to kick in. The extra range is 124 miles. Despite the complex drive technology, the A1 e-tron weighs in at just 2,623 pounds and is able to accelerate from 0-62 mph in a reasonable 10.2 seconds. Top speed is rated at a relatively low 81 mph, which helps preserve battery life.

Unlike its rivals, such as BMW and Mercedes-Benz, which are promoting their electric cars as a low cost and environmentally friendly option for urban commuting with their respective Megacity and all-electric Smart ForTwo, Audi is targeting the top end of town by promoting the performance aspects of electric propulsion--instantaneous torque. Not surprisingly, Audi’s first e-tron model is expected to be a low-volume sports car based on the R8 platform and is due in 2012. This will be followed by a smaller two-seat sports car based on the upcoming R4 and then eventually the A1 e-tron.