Audi E-tron electric concept at 2009 Frankfurt motor show

Published: 15 September 2009

This is the Audi E-tron concept car, an electric version of Ingolstadt’s R8 supercar. Unveiled at the 2009 Frankfurt motor show it has four electric motors driving all four wheels, and produces a staggering 3319lb ft.

This new Audi E-tron produces over three times more torque than a Bugatti Veyron?

Yes it does. The Veyron makes do with a paltry 922lb ft, but thanks to four motors – two each at the front and rear axles – the Audi E-tron produces 3319lb ft, along with 309bhp. All that twist action is sent to all four wheels, and with the electric motors able to distribute torque as desired, the E-tron effectively has a torque-vectoring Quattro system. The power is normally distributed 30:70 front-to-rear to balance the 42:58 weight distribution.

All that electric grunt means the E-tron is good for a 4.8 second sprint to 62mph, and it’s limited to 124mph. But despite the 470kg battery, the E-tron only weighs around 1600kg – an R8 V10 tips the scales at 1620 kilos.

The lithium-ion battery that powers the four motors is mid-mounted – replacing the regular petrol-powered V8 and V10 engines – and its 42.4kWh storage capacity gives the E-tron a range of over 150 miles. It can be fully charged using a household plug in under eight hours, or 2.5 hours using a 400v output, while Audi is also working on a wireless inductive charging system similar to that used by electric toothbrushes. And the battery is charged on the move, using energy recaptured by a decoupling alternator and the regenerative ceramic brakes.

This E-tron looks a little different from the R8 – talk me through the changes

The R8’s famous sideblades have disappeared. As have the side air intakes, or so you might think – the intakes ahead of the rear wheels usually sit flush, only opening when extra cooling is needed, so aerodynamic drag is decreased.

Also new are the adaptive LED lights, multi-spoke 19-inch alloys and door-mounted rear-view cameras. Overall the E-tron is about the same width as an R8, but it’s shorter and lower.

And inside?

There’s a shallow dash, no transmission tunnel and a minimalist design. The MMI system is controlled by a touch-sensitive scroll pad in the centre of the car, and ahead of it is a small gear selector that rises up when the E-tron is started. The entire cabin is orientated towards the driver, with the multimedia screen ahead of the steering wheel flanked by two ancillary dials for the speed and power reserves. Monitors relaying the external cameras' views are mounted at the base of the A-pillars.

Anything else?

The E-tron concept has what Audi calls 'car-to-x communication'. The system collects traffic information from other cars and the transport network to warn drivers of jams and accidents, making driving safer and more efficient.

There’s also a ‘heat pump’ because Audi believes the electric drive system won’t produce enough heat under all conditions to effectively hwarm the E-tron’s cabin, and the batteries are also heated and cooled to keep them at optimum operating temperatures. 

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By Ben Pulman

CAR's editor-at-large, co-ordinator, tallboy