Audi revealed that the brand’s first ever all-electric offering is going to be manufactured at its Neckarsulm facility. In addition, the brand will also be conducting a small production run of its R8 e-tron sports car, expected to be released by late 2012. At present, Quattro GmbH is developing a technology platform that will be used for this electric version. It will do so at Heilbronn-Biberach, the satellite site of the Neckarsulm plant. What specially qualified employees will be doing is to use the series production of the R8 mid-engine sports car as a basis while the R8 e-tron will start assembly at the development workshop.
Product and business journalists managed to get the chance to see the R8 e-tron in the development workshop during AUDI AG’s 122nd Annual General Meeting, also in Neckarsulm. The brand wants to show customers that electric mobility can be inspiring and hopes that this can be achieved by the R8 e-tron, shares AUDI AG’s Head of Electric Mobility Strategy Franciscus van Meel. This is indeed an important project especially for the brand as any experience and competence collected from this will eventually be applied to the large volume production of its electric automobiles, he adds.
Today for example "quattro" will always be related to the pioneering all-wheel drive, he continues, and the brand hopes the e-tron will also become synonymous with advanced electric mobility. The brand, relates van Meel, wants to be known by 2020 as the world leader in manufacturing electric vehicles. For electric vehicles, one of the requirements in order to have range and efficiency is to have a systematic lightweight construction. Development engineers thus used the R8 e-tron’s core competencies which is a body that is composed of aluminum. Due to the use of Audi Space Frame technology, the body weighs just a little over 200 kg, or about 441 lb.
This is why the overall weight of the R8 e-tron stands at 1,600 kg, around 3,527 lb. Both Quattro GmbH and employees at the Neckarsulm Pre-Production Center are presently working on the electric car’s first technology platforms. Managing Director Werner Frowein explains that due to the successful production of its high-performance R8 sports car, people who are employed at Quattro GmbH were able to achieve a higher level of competence when it came to sports car manufacturing and small production runs. Under this technology platform, the aluminum body that is currently being created is as close as possible to the body shop volume production of the mid-engine R8 sports car.
For this electric model, certain specific assemblies are needed like the center tunnel and these are manufactured at the Pre-Production Center located in Neckarsulm. Similar to the volume version, the R8 e-tron will also be undergoing a coating process. Once this is done, the technology platform is then sent to the Heilbronn-Biberach satellite site in order to go through the final assembly. According to Director Frowein, this particular process was designed in order for the brand to exploit the synergy effects of the volume production of the R8. A good example of this process is that the sophisticated logistics concept that is responsible for supplying parts to the R8 factory is also the same one that is utilized for the body of this technology platform
. Using "shopping baskets", the pre-picked parts are then conveyed to the employees. These parts are then positioned inside the vehicle using a defined sequence under four cycles. Frowein adds that since employees experience great demands under small series production, the development workshop is manned by experienced employees who have previously worked with the R8 series production. This is the same unit where the same employees obtained their key competencies when it comes to small series production.
Andreas Heine meanwhile explains that the staff working at the development workshop is indeed specially qualified when it comes to high-voltage vehicles. Heine is the project manager at Quattro GmbH in-charge of the R8 e-tron’s body. Depending on the technical training and function, the staff is trained in three phases in order to start working on high-voltage technology. The first stage is called as the sensitization for driving as well as working on high-voltage vehicles. Building on this, the second stage is where the workers are then qualified as electronics experts for specific activities. The third is the extended training in order to have the Certified Electronics Specialists for Automotive Technology.
This helps the employees with the know-how that they need in order to conduct the complete range of actions needed in relation to high-voltage models. AUDI AG discloses that from 2011 until 2015, the company will be investing an amount in excess of €5 billion at its two German facilities, one in Ingolstadt and the other in Neckarsulm. Most of the investment will be directed to developing new products and even future technologies like hybrid drive systems and electric systems. It was back in September of 2009 when the brand first unveiled during the Frankfurt Motor Show its high-performance two-seater sports car with the all-electric drive, the R8 e-tron. Output is 230 kW (313 hp) with maximum torque at 4,500 Nm (3,319 lb-ft). Acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h (0 to 62 mph) is possible in merely 4.8 seconds. By June 2010, Neckarsulm-based Quattro GmbH was selected to manufacture the R8 e-tron. Quattro was selected due to its expertise when it comes to building high-performance cars and small series production. In July 2010, the R8 e-tron won the Silvretta E-Auto Rally, a three-day race that covers a total of 167.5 kilometers (104 miles), beating a total of 23 other electric cars