Analysis Paralysis: Audi Offers Yet Another Electric Car Study
It’s hard to keep track of the long line of plug-in car concepts from Audi. While other car companies (most notably Nissan) made a firm decision to make and sell an electric car three or four years ago—and now sells EVs by the thousands—Audi continues to study the issue. At the 2011 Los Angeles Auto Show, running through Nov. 27, Audi is now showing its all-electric A3 e-tron—what it calls a "technology study."
This latest concept follows the e-tron R8 electric supercar (apparently going into small-scale production); an A1 e-tron EV; and an A3 plug-in hybrid. Six months ago, PluginCars.com contributor Laurent Masson praised the A3 plug-in hybrid’s aesthetics, but called the electric motor “an unwanted child.” It only accounts for 27 horsepower of the car’s 238 total horsepower. “When you switch on the electric mode,” he wrote, “You find yourself reduced to just 11 percent of the power you had when driving in hybrid mode. Ouch!”
Maybe Audi was listening when Laurent called for Audi to ditch the wimpy plug-in hybrid idea, and turn the A3 into a pure electric car that can take on competitors. "We thought about other solutions,” said Heiko Seegatz, Audi’s product strategist, in an interview with Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald. “One of them is a range-extender solution and we have the A1 to test this…And [now] we have the A3 battery electric to test another solution."
The company, a subsidiary of Volkswagen, uses the conventional A3 as the basis for the latest concept on display in Los Angeles. The A3 e-tron cranks out a continuous 60 kW (equivalent to 82 horsepower) and peaks at 85 kW (114 horsepower). Maximum torque is listed at 199 pound-feet, with the power delivered to the A3's front axle via a single-speed transmission. The 26.5-kWh lithium-ion battery pack is located under the A3's luggage compartment, rear seat and in the vehicle's center tunnel. Range for the A3 e-tron is listed at 87 miles. The electric Audi does the 0-60 mph dash in 11 seconds and top speed checks in at 90 miles per hour.
The Sydney Morning Herald, which spent some time behind the wheel of various e-tron versions, said A3 EV drivers can choose from four different brake settings, to adjust the amount of regenerative braking and coasting. That’s a desirable feature. But all features at this point are theoretical, because the German luxury brand isn’t saying when the A3 e-tron will be made.
Yet, according to the Australian newspaper, Audi plans to offer an entire lineup of e-tron electric cars by 2020. You can say whatever you want about what you’re going to do in 2020. The harder thing is to choose one of those e-tron vehicles—preferably the one that is most accessible to mainstream buyers—and actually bring it to market, rather than rolling out yet another concept study version.
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