GRR

Audi's new electric supercar will let you sit wherever you want to drive

27th August 2018
Bob Murray

It might not be as pretty as an R8 but Audi’s latest mid-engined concept does things no R8 can do… such as offering the driver a choice of where they sit. In monoposto form for track driving, the seat (along with steering wheel, pedals and instruments) all decamp to the centre of the car, McLaren F1-style, while for road driving you sit on the left, or right, side allowing space for your passenger…

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Gimmick of the year or, as Audi would have us believe, part of the appeal of “a radical vision for the high-performance sportscar of tomorrow”? One thing for sure, it’s an intriguing idea that, with the centre-seat McLaren Speedtail imminent, picks up on the sporting zeitgeist.

In the Audi this new definition of “fully adjustable driving position” is made possible by a movable monocoque inside the cabin. It contains the driver’s seat and all the (electronic, fly-by-wire) controls and slides across the car to the centre position when wanted, turning it into a single-seat track car.

The car boasts an aggressive cab-forward shape and “breadvan” profile with a vast glass canopy and slender pillars – visibility out should not be a worry. As well as conferring on it a very distinctive silhouette, the car’s vertical tail treatment allows for a 470-litre boot.

Beneath the body is the conventional layout of a mid-engined sportscar like the R8. But, picking up on more zeitgeist, it does of course come with an electric drivetrain. Audi says a lot of tech in the car, as well as its driver focus, originated with its Le Mans winning R18 e-tron LMP1 racing car.

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The concept was designed by Audi Design in Malibu whose Gael Buzyn said: “We want to offer the driver an experience that is otherwise available only in a racing car like the Audi R18. That’s why we developed the interior around the ideal driver’s position in the centre. Nevertheless, our aim was to also give the PB18 e-tron a high degree of everyday usability.”

That seat idea may have a way to go yet, but there are aspects of the car, unveiled at Pebble Beach and called the PB18 e-tron, that do have a production future. The biggest clue of course is e-tron – which is the moniker Audi is giving to all its electric cars. While we may not be looking at precisely the first electric R8, Audi is clearly preparing us for the idea of one.

In the Pebble Beach concept, there are three electric motors, one up front and two behind in order to meet its corporate responsibility as flagbearer of the quattro philosophy. Maximum output is 570kW (760hp) with 612lb ft of instant torque, no surprise then that Audi is suggesting acceleration of the order of its LMP1 car. That would be  0-62mph in just two and a bit seconds then.

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It’s uncommon performance, as are the energy storage arrangements. There’s nothing common or garden about the PB18 e-tron’s batteries: they use solid-state technology which helps save weight: the car weighs in at 1550kg against  today’s V10 R8’s 1590kg. In terms of size the concept is 100mm longer than the R8, a little wider and quite a bit lower.

Solid state batteries have other advantage as well, including a range of 310 miles on a full charge – with a full charge at 800 volts taking just 15 minutes.

Clearly there’s a lot of important future tech in this car, and equally clearly e-tron electric Audis are just round the corner. The first is the e-tron SUV which arrives in September as a rival for the Jaguar I-Pace.  Don’t expect solid state batteries though – and  certainly not a centre-seat driving position…

  • Audi

  • PB18

  • Pebble Beach

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