New technologies to take us for a test drive
OKTOBERFEST is in full swing this week but I’m in Munich for something that will last a bit longer than a hangover — sampling three breakthrough technologies that are likely to be on tap soon.
Audi is going all-out in Munich to showcase its best bets on CO and fuel economy reductions: an electric turbocharger, an intelligent hybrid system that predicts road conditions to cut energy use, and a dualmode hybrid car that moves the range-extender goal posts beyond the Holden Volt, the benchmark.
Each is a significant advance. And the at-thewheel impression in the test cars is that all three are as good as done for production.
The advantage of an electric turbocharger becomes obvious within 100 metres of starting the engine. It is fitted to a V6 that normally runs a pair of exhaust-driven turbo- chargers, but they need heat and exhaust gases.
The electric turbo eliminates lag from a standing start and is claimed to improve cold start-up and reduce efficiency losses.
It will come on a range of engines, from the tiniest fuel misers to more-efficient performance power plants.
Audi’s GPS-linked Intelligent Driver Assist knows the road before the driver sees it, allowing for smoother driving, a lot of low-drag coasting, and prompts for the right gear and use of the accelerator. It’s harder to feel a benefit on flat, smooth roads but the A6 test car coasts a long way when it is set to free-wheel.
Then it’s time for my favourite — I’m a big fan of electric cars — an A1 e-tron dual-mode hybrid.
This is a battery electric car with a three-cylinder combustion engine that can either boost acceleration or charge the battery, extending the electricrunning range from 80km to more than 600km.
It reminds me instantly of the Holden Volt, except the Audi is quieter and more refined, its petrol engine is smaller and designed specifically for the job. As I complete my three runs, all short but enlightening and making for an intensive day of technology overload, it’s obvious that Audi is trying to cover all the bases.
As I look at the cars and consider research on alternative fuels and the renewable energy needed to process them, one thing is very clear.
The best bet for a green motoring future is in Germany, as Audi and the other prestige brands — BMW and Benz — have the cash and commitment to make the big gains. They are also backed by governments at all levels which are spending on the future and not, like Australia, refusing to even consider subsidies to get people into cars that will spearhead the seachange in 21st century motoring.
Paul Gover, Chief reporter
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