Audi shows us how the R8 e-Tron is developed

Article by Christian A., on May 12, 2011

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

Press Release

Audi R8 e-tron: A look inside the development workshop

The first all-electric Audi will be built at the Neckarsulm site, with a small production run of the R8 e-tron sports car to hit the roads in late 2012. quattro GmbH is currently building the first technology platform for the electric model at the Neckarsulm plant's satellite site in Heilbronn-Biberach. Specially qualified employees are borrowing from the series production of the successful Audi R8 mid-engine sports car as they assemble the R8 e-tron at the development workshop.

The 122nd Annual General Meeting of AUDI AG in Neckarsulm gave business and product journalists their first opportunity to look inside the development workshop for the Audi R8 e-tron.

"With the R8 e-tron, we are showing how inspiring electric mobility can be. Every system in this car has been tuned for maximum performance and range," says Franciscus van Meel, Head of Electric Mobility Strategy at AUDI AG. "The R8 e-tron is a very important project for Audi because the competence and experience we glean from it will later flow into the large volume production of electric automobiles." The expectation is that e-tron will become a synonym for advanced electric mobility, just as the term "quattro" today stands for pioneering all-wheel drive. "We want to be the leading premium manufacturer of electric vehicles by 2020," says van Meel.

Systematic lightweight construction is one of the key preconditions for efficiency and range in electric vehicles. The Audi development engineers are therefore drawing on one of the company's core competences for the R8 e-tron: The body is aluminum; thanks to Audi Space Frame technology (ASF), it weighs barely more than 200 kg (441 lb). The lightweight body is an important reason why the R8 e-tron weighs in at just 1,600 kg (3,527 lb).

Employees at the Pre-Production Center in Neckarsulm and quattro GmbH are currently building the first technology platforms for the electric car. "The successful production of our Audi R8 high-performance sports car has given the employees of quattro GmbH a high level of competence in the area of small production runs and sports car manufacture," explains Managing Director Werner Frowein.

The aluminum body of the technology platform is being built in conditions very close to those for volume production in the body shop for the R8 mid-engine sports car. Specific assemblies for the electric model, such as the center tunnel, are being produced by the Pre-Production Center in Neckarsulm. The R8 e-tron also goes through the coating process with the volume model. The technology platform is then sent to the satellite site in Heilbronn-Biberach for final assembly. "The production process is designed so that we can exploit synergy effects from R8 volume production," explains Frowein.

For example, the sophisticated logistics concept that supplies the R8 factory with parts is also used for the body of the technology platform. Pre-picked components are delivered to the employees in "shopping baskets." The parts are installed in the vehicles in a defined sequence in four cycles. "Small-series production places great demands on our employees," says Frowein. This is why the development workshop is staffed with experienced employees who worked in R8 series production, where they gleaned key competence in small-series production.

"The development workshop staff are specially qualified for high-voltage vehicles," explains Andreas Heine, quattro GmbH project manager for the body of the R8 e-tron. They are trained in three stages - depending on their function and technical training - to work with the high-voltage technology. The basic level is sensitization for driving and working on high-voltage vehicles. The training then builds on this to qualify the workers as electronics experts for defined activities. Finally, the extended training as Certified Electronics Specialists for Automotive Technology provides the employees with the expertise required to perform the complete range of activities associated with high-voltage models.

AUDI AG is investing more than €5 billion in the two German sites at Ingolstadt and Neckarsulm between 2011 and 2015. A majority of this investment will flow into the development of new products and into future technologies such as electric and hybrid drive systems.

The future of mobility - the history of the Audi R8 e-tron
September 2009 Audi presents the e-tron high-performance sports car with all-electric drive at the Frankfurt Motor Show. With 230 kW (313 hp) and 4,500 Nm (3,319 lb-ft) of torque, the two-seater accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 4.8 seconds.

June 2010 quattro GmbH in Neckarsulm is chosen to build the R8 e-tron because of its competence in the areas of small-series production and the manufacture of high-performance sports cars.
July 2010 The Audi R8 e-tron wins the Silvretta E-Auto Rally. The two-seater beat 23 other electric cars in the three-day race covering 167.5 kilometers (104 miles).

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