Audi says that its approach to electric vehicles is rational

Article by Christian Andrei, on March 15, 2011

Audi AG is set to launch its E-tron line with the R8-based sports car in 2012. Audi started displaying E-tron concepts with the EV sports car it launched at the 2009 Frankfurt Motor Show. That futuristic and sleek two-seater, which was derived from the R8 high-performance sports car, used four in-wheel motors to hit a 4.8 second 0-60 time.

Frank Van Meel, the 44-year-old head of electromobility strategy at Audi, described Audi’s approach to electric vehicles as supremely rational. He adds that company really likes the idea of an electric sports car that "goes off like a catapult."

He says both qualities are essential: Capturing Audi’s brand image needs something other than a drab eco-mobile. Van Meel came to Audi in 1996 from ITT Automotive Europe. Before assuming the electromobility role in 2009, he managed several engineering projects at Audi.

As the automaker fills out its lineup of EVs, it will be methodical. The first step comes this summer, when Audi begins testing A1 E-tron subcompacts in Munich.

The automaker, using smart phones, will track the “typical mobility behavior” of project participants before they get the A1, and then assess changes as they use the car.

Van Meel said the company checks their mobility behavior in the car, by bike, by foot, or by subway. He adds that Audi will monitor what they do when they switch to the A1 E-tron, whether there will be any changes in their mobility behavior.

Transversely mounted at the front of the Audi A1 e-tron is its synchronous electric motor. The low mounting position creates a positive impact on the unit's center of gravity. The car’s continuous output is at 45 kW (or 61 hp), with a peak power of 75 kW (or 102 hp), which is available in short bursts. Torque at 150 Nm (or 110.63 lb-ft) is continuously available, with peak torque at 240 Nm (or 177.01 lb-ft).

The electric motor sends power in single-speed transmissions to the car’s front wheels. Located on the center tunnel’s console is a retractable selector lever with the options for "Drive," "Reverse," and "Neutral," a design copied from the first version of the Audi e-tron. The power electronics are set up on top of the electric motor in the engine compartment. The pulse-controlled inverter, DC converter, a breaker unit, and the charging module are the most essential components.

The inverter controls the e-tron’s electric motor and the unit’s battery. The high-voltage network is connected with the electrical system (14 volts) by the DC converter. The breaker unit protects these high-voltage components. The standard charging plug’s socket is located behind the single-frame grille.

A fully depleted battery will take about three hours to completely recharge from a 380-volt outlet. Current charge status and the remaining charging time will be shown in the display screen, located near the plug-in connection. The pioneering Mega City Vehicle concept requires essential auxiliaries to be electrically powered. For example, a high-voltage electric motor electrically powers the climate control system’s refrigerant compressor with only the needed amount of electrical power at a given time.

Compared to traditional concepts, this substantially improves the efficiency of the system. Owing to a special circuit, another function of the climate control loop is that of a heat pump that regulates the battery and the cabin’s temperature. The Audi A1 e-tron boasts of an electro-mechanical and energy-efficient power steering. With its electronic brake system, the unit can maximize the recuperation potential of its electric motors.

Mounted on its front axle is a hydraulic fixed-caliper brake and on the rear axle are two electrically activated floating caliper brakes. Instead of conventional transfer elements, the floating caliper brakes are activated by wire (“brake by wire“). This limits frictional losses caused by residual slips when brakes are not applied. On top of that, a new electric vacuum pump, which is demand-controlled, has been added to the servo unit.

Topics: audi, electric car

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