Le Mans plugs in
Audi performance power takes 24-Hour race honours in diesel-hybrid hero cars
R8 e-Tron supercar and perhaps even combustion engines running on compressed natural gas.
The new generation of e-quattro cars will combine electric drive at one end with petrol or diesel at the other, just like the diesel-electric Audi R18 e-tron racers that finished 1-2 in this year’s Le Mans 24-hour race in a landmark result for hybrid power.
‘‘ Our idea is to be efficient and sporty. You can drive a hybrid and have fun,’’ says Christian Bangemann of Audi’s product and technology division in Germany.
‘‘ The hybrid can be the next step of the quattro theme. We are thinking of the hybrid quattro theme, having one axle with electric power and the other with the combustion engine. This might be our first milestone with a very sporty theme, the e-quattro.’’
Bangemann says Audi is committed to hybrids and is well advanced with a full-scale rollout in a little over five years.
‘‘ We will bring, in every model, a hybrid on the road in the next years,’’ he says.
The e-quattro cars will follow, although he is reluctant to give any timing. ‘‘ It’s a plan. Our engineers are working on that. But this is a little bit more in the future,’’ he says.
‘‘ They will be versions of our existing cars. They give you some fun on the road, but not the performance you see with the RS models.’’
Bangemann says racing at Le Mans is accelerating Audi’s knowledge of several systems, particularly software integration, although he rules out a transfer of the company’s high-speed flywheel storage system from racing to the road. ‘‘ The flywheel is right for the racetrack but for the street we don’t think it’s the right idea.’’
He says Audi is working on how to spread the e-quattro load to all four corners of the car.
‘‘ Maybe it will be a combination of three engines, two electrical and one combustion. We might drive electric with one axle,or drive electric with boost by the combustion engine.
‘‘ There are still some years that we will see before they are ready for the customers.’’
Bangemann says Audi is less focused on electric cars but is nearly set with the R8 e-Tron.
‘‘ At the moment we’re not working on pure electric cars. Our first steps will be plug-in hybrids. The first e-Trons on the road will be plug-in hybrids — except the R8 e-Tron, which is pure electric . . . and you can buy in 2013.’’
Around the clock: The No.1 Audi R18 e-Tron was first across the line
at Le Mans last weekend