GRR

Six things you need to know about Audi's first electric car – the e-tron

17th September 2018
Bob Murray

Audi has joined the fast-expanding premium electric car club with the unveiling in the US today of the Audi e-tron. It is the brand’s first pure electric car and forerunner of a 12-model battery-powered line-up that will be in the showrooms by 2025.

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Looking every inch the conventional Audi SUV but radically different under the skin and boasting some novel ideas, the e-tron is in production in Brussels now and you can be whirring silently around in one from early 2019, in return for £70,805. The e-tron is Audi’s answer to both the Jaguar I-Pace and Mercedes-Benz EQC electric SUVs.

An e-tron Sportback will join the range in 2019 while the following year a sportier e-tron GT from AudiSport arrives. This will use new and bespoke flat-floor electric architecture co-developed with Porsche. A concept preview of the e-tron GT is expected at the Los Angeles show later this year. Further out, Audi is promising that among the 25 “e-mobility” electric cars by 2015 will be cars of every size, shape and price range.

The e-tron (all lower case like quattro), is purely battery powered, has motors back and front for all-wheel-drive and keep its batteries under the floor for a low centre of gravity and 50:50 weight distribution. The five-seater is between the Q5 and Q7 on length and width, but lower than both of them and aerodynamically better.

Audi eschewed a futuristic electric car design for a signature SUV look with only a subtle overlay of electric-car accents – chiefly the blanked off grille and new LED light signature.

There’s plenty of innovation under the skin though – here’s GRR’s guide to six key things about e-tron…

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1. It has cameras for door mirrors

Concept cars have featured them for decades but the e-tron is the world’s first series production car to get ”virtual” mirrors, if only as an (undoubtedly expensive) option. Even so, they are quite a USP for the new electric Audi. Tiny cameras are housed in slender arms where the mirrors would be, and they show their rear-view images on 7-inch OLED displays either side of the wraparound Audi “virtual cockpit” dashboard. You can zoom in for a close-up of what’s happening behind, plus there are different settings for motorway driving, turning and parking. Other advantages are they create less drag and wind noise, and allow vehicle width to be reduced by 150mm. Here’s hoping they fold in automatically when parked so they don’t get knocked off…

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2. It’s very aerodynamic

When optioned up with those rear-view cameras, the e-tron’s Cd is 0.27 (0.28 with ordinary mirrors) which Audi says is best in class. The standard adaptive air suspension lowers the body 26mm at speeds over 74mph to cut drag. Aero-optimised wheels and tyres (not even raised lettering on the tyre sidewall – now that’s attention to detail) and a fully enclosed underbody and adjustable air inlet contribute as well. There’s a big point to all this of course: the lower the Cd value the further a car can travel. Audi says every 0.01 of the drag coefficient represents three miles of electric range.

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3. It can travel from Goodwood to Silverstone and back on a charge 

Two hundred and forty eight and a half miles is the actual range, says Audi. Which is pretty specific, but then it – or rather its more rounded 400km equivalent – is merely its official rating under the new Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP). Actual distance will depend on how much of a lead-foot you are, among other factors. The e-tron’s range is about what all the new dedicated electric premium cars are aiming for; in its best form, the Jag I-Pace actually offers 298 miles. Almost a third of the Audi’s range is down to a trick new energy recuperation system that tops up the battery with juice generated by an electrohydraulically integrated brake control system. The system gives the driver three brake recuperation modes. In the most extreme, just releasing the gas pedal is enough to slow the car, for “one pedal driving”. In this mode, an e-tron driving down the 31km Pikes Peak hillclimb recovered almost enough energy to drive another 31km.

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4. It’s quick to recharge

Audi claims the e-tron is the first car on the market that can charge at high power (150kW) direct-current charging stations such as those being opened by the Ionity network across Europe. At one of these half an hour will replenish the 95kWh lithium-ion battery to 80 per cent. Normal AC charging points of the type now proliferating take longer. At home with a domestic 11kW alternating-current supply, recharging takes 8.5 hours. A 22kW charger reduces that but is an extra-cost option.

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5. It’s got plenty of power

In Drive, the twin electric motors deliver 360PS (355bhp) with 560Nm (413lb ft) of torque (for up to 60 seconds at a time), while in Sport mode you get 408PS (402bhp) – but that is available only in eight-second bursts. It is a fullsize SUV and probably heavy (no figure for that thus far) and with 0-62mph in 5.7 seconds acceleration is brisk rather than stonking. Top speed is restricted to 124mph.

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6. It’s built in a CO2 neutral factory

The e-tron is being assembled in a factory in Brussels that Audi says is the world’s first CO2-neutral premium car plant. Ninety five per cent of production processes and all other emissions are covered by renewable energies while the remaining five per cent is compensated for by environmental projects. This plant has a big future: Audi says that by the middle of the next decade every third Audi buyer will be choosing an e-model.

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