For those who dread the coming of electric vehicles (EVs) because they could mean the end of high-performance cars should not worry so much. After all, a number of carmakers have already shown new and prototype EV models that can be very quick, and that partly because of the high torque generated by an electric motor right from standstill.
The electric powered Audi e-tron GT, shown as a concept car at the Los Angeles Auto Show this week, is another model which should put fears of boring cars at rest. It is being previewed two years before it will be available for purchase and will be the next 100% electric Audi to be launched after the e-tron SUV and the e-tron Sportback which will be in showrooms next year.
The flat-floor architecture provides for exciting proportions and a low centre of gravity, ideal for a sportscar. It has the proportions of a classic Gran Turismo car and measures 4.96 metres in length, 1.96 metres in width and the roofline is 1.38 metres from the road. The lightweight body of the 4-door coupe is manufactured using a multi-material construction. This consists of a roof section made from carbonfibre along with numerous aluminium components and supporting elements made from high-strength steel. The technology for this automobile was developed in close collaboration with Porsche.
The gently sloping roofline of the e-tron GT concept that extends well into the rear echoes the Sportback layout that is the hallmark of the brand. This is however clearly taken forward into the future, pointing the way to the next evolutionary stage of the Audi design language. The cabin that tapers strongly toward the rear stands out compared with current Audi models.
The hallmark Audi Singleframe is located in the centre of the front section. Compared with the two e-tron SUVs, its architecture is much more horizontal. The top half comes with a cover painted in body colour and its surface structure is reminiscent of the typical honeycomb pattern of the grille on the RS models – a visual signal which characterizes the e-tron GT concept as a future product of Audi Sport.
Together with the targeted airflow of the body, large air inlets in the front effectively cool the assemblies, battery and brakes. The bonnet with its airflow on the surface echoes the brand’s two latest showcars – the Aicon and the PB18 e-tron. It is designed in such a way that the airflow hugs the body, thus reducing undesired swirl.
The interior the e-tron GT concept provides a large dose of everyday usability, coupled with the premium feel of an Audi. The functional centre of the interior is located at the front left, visibly focused on the driver’s seat. The centre console, the large touchscreen in the top section and the line from the door rail and cockpit frame the driver’s workplace, perfectly incorporate the driver ergonomically with the controls and the infotainment system.
The centre console and the freestanding instrument cluster seem to float. Light colours in the top section of the cockpit and the gradually darker gradation through to the floor area create the impression of clear width. Sport seats inspired by motor racing in both rows of seats provide optimum lateral support even while cornering at speed.
Both the screen of the central instrument and the touchscreen above the centre console come with a black-panel look finish. They underscore the large, calm design of the interior with its predominantly horizontal basic architecture. Various layouts are available for the monitors to present the functions depending on the driver’s preference, including virtual instrument dials, easy-to-read navigation maps with information on the range, or various infotainment function menus. They are controlled via the touchscreen with tactile feedback.
With two luggage compartments, the e-tron GT concept offers a great many options for a GT car. Here it makes full use of its concept advantage as an electric automobile with compact drive units. The rear with its large tailgate offers up to 450 litres of luggage capacity and under the bonnet, there’s an extra 100 litres of capacity.
The total system power is 590 ps which comes from separate electric motors fitted to the front and rear axles. They send torque to the road via all four driven wheels – just like any Audi with a quattro system. However, this is an electric quattro since there is no mechanical link between the front and rear axle. The electronic control system coordinates the drive between the axles as well as between left and right wheels, providing optimum traction and just the desired amount of slip.
Audi engineers expect the production model to have a 0 to 100 km/h time of around 3.5 seconds and a top speed beyond 240 km/h but regulated at that speed to maximize the range. One feature that not all the competition can match is the option of fully utilizing the drive’s acceleration potential several times in succession. While elsewhere the drive is switched to overdrive for thermal considerations, the e-tron GT concept can provide the driver with the full potential of both motors and the battery, thanks to its sophisticated cooling strategy.
The range of the concept car is claimed to be over 400 kms and the required drive energy will come from a lithium-ion battery with an energy content of more than 90 kWh. This naturally means it is a large pack and occupies the entire underfloor area between the front and rear axle with its flat design. The decisive advantage of this design is the car’s extremely low centre of gravity – comparable with that of the Audi R8 – which in turn decisively benefits dynamic handling.
The recuperation system increases the range by up to 30% on Audi electric vehicles, useful even with a sporty car like the e-tron GT concept. The recuperation involves both the two electric motors and the electrohydraulically integrated brake control system.
The battery pack can be recharged in several ways; using a cable or by means of contactless induction with Audi Wireless Charging. For the latter method, a charging pad with integral coil has to be installed permanently on the floor where the car is to parked regularly, and connected to the power supply. The alternating magnetic field induces an alternating voltage in the secondary coil fitted in the floor of the car, across the air gap. With a charging output of 11 kW, the e-tron GT concept can be fully recharged overnight.
Wired charging can be much faster, especially using 800V system proposed. This substantially reduces charging times compared with conventional systems that are currently in use. It can take around 20 minutes to recharge the battery to 80% of its capacity, which translates to a range of more than 320 kms. For greater convenience, the e-tron GT concept can also be recharged at charging points with lower voltages although the time would be longer then.