Late last year we first told you about a new development and testing center established by Audi exclusively for its electric drive systems near its headquarters in Ingolstadt, Germany. Now we have an inside look at another electric car development center belonging to Audi, this time at a satellite site in Biberach, also in Germany.
The site is part of Audi’s greater production facility at Neckarsulm, which will start building the automaker’s first electric car, the R8 e-tron supercar, in late 2012, initially in a small production run that’s largely hand built.
Specially qualified engineers are currently working on the R8 e-tron’s technology platform, initially borrowing regular R8 mid-engine platforms to assemble the first batch of the e-tron prototypes. This step is crucial as the competence and experience gained from the prototypes will later flow into the large volume production of electric cars.
The hope for Audi is that the e-tron name will become a synonym for advanced electric mobility, just as the term quattro today stands for advanced all-wheel drive systems.
Audi’s key focus is lightweight construction, which as we all know is one of the key preconditions for efficiency and range in electric cars. Audi engineers are therefore drawing on one of the automaker’s core competences for the R8 e-tron: The body is aluminum; thanks to Audi Space Frame technology (ASF), it weighs barely more than 441 pounds.
The lightweight body is an important reason why the R8 e-tron weighs in at just 3,527 pounds, which may seem heavy but is actually reasonable for an electric car.
This aluminum body of the technology platform is being built in conditions very close to those for volume production in the body shop for the regular gasoline powered R8 supercar. Specific assemblies for the electric model, such as the center tunnel, are being produced by a pre-production center in Neckarsulm.
The R8 e-tron also goes through the coating process with the volume model. The technology platform is then sent to the satellite site in Biberach for final assembly.
Audi is spending big to ensure if remains a leader in the field of electric mobility, especially in the luxury segment. The automaker is investing more than $7 billion in the two German sites at Ingolstadt and Neckarsulm between 2011 and 2015. A majority of this investment will flow into the development of new products and into future technologies such as the upcoming e-tron electric cars, as well as hybrid drive systems.
For more details on the original R8 e-tron concept car, click here.