Welcome to Pop The Hood, a weekly autoMedia.com feature that examines the industry’s latest innovations and what makes them tick. Recently, we’ve poked around inside the Shelby GT500, Hyundai Veloster Turbo, Cadillac ATS and many others. Today, we take a detailed look at the 2013 Audi R8 e-tron, which recently set a new record as the fastest electric car to ever lap the Nürburgring.
We’re living in a burgeoning age of the electric car, and new advancements are being made every day. Today, for instance, Audi announced that their R8 e-tron set an all-time record as the fastest series production electric car to ever lap the 12.92-mile Nürburgring, with an 8:09 lap time at the hands of racing driver Markus Winkelhock. It seemed like an appropriate time to take an inside look at the R8 e-tron, which will go on sale later this year, and could spark wider use of electric technology across the entire Audi range of cars in the future. Here’s how it works:
Four Electric Motors: Two mounted to the front axle, two just behind the rear axle. All together, the motors produce 280 kW and 820 Nm of torque, which equates to 370 horsepower and – get this – 3,614.05 lb.-ft of torque. No joke. About 30% of that power is available to the front wheels and 70% to the rears, but more on the drivetrain later. Since the system is electric, that means that nearly all that power is available to the driver at any time, especially since the R8 e-tron is equipped with…
Torque Vectoring: You know that Audi is proud of their all-wheel drive, quattro heritage, as they well should be. It seems they couldn’t pass up the opportunity to carry on that tradition in the R8 e-tron. Torque vectoring is what will keep all of that insane torque from twisting the car into a tree – it’s basically the individual acceleration of each wheel, sensing when one wheel needs more power and easing off when it loses grip. Torque vectoring will keep all four tires moving in the right direction with the right amount of power, it’s what makes the car a true quattro, and it’s what will help the R8 e-tron storm from 0-60 mph in just 4.6 seconds.
Lithium-Ion Batteries: Without a traditional, combustible engine, the batteries are the heart and soul of the R8 e-tron and the most important component of any electric vehicle. Audi uses lithium-ions that store 49KWh of energy and weigh in around 1,036.17 lbs. That’s a heavy piece of machinery, so Audi stored them directly behind passenger cabin, in front of rear axle. This keeps the car’s center of gravity very low. The batteries are water-cooled for optimal performance and service life, and recharge while driving thanks to regenerative braking. Audi says the R8 e-tron boasts an impressive range of 133.59 miles on electric battery power.
Slimmed Down: As discussed above, more than 1,000 lbs. of batteries is a whole lot of weight. That kind of weight can kill performance and fuel efficiency, which would effectively kill the eco-friendly benefits of driving an electric car. Audi countered this issue by outfitting the R8 e-tron with an all-aluminum body with carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) components in the doors, covers, sidewalls and roof. These lightweight materials keep the car’s total weight at 3,924.23 lbs., by no means a Lotus, but with all the technology on board, R8 e-tron owners will be thrilled. Even with the batteries in the back, Audi managed to keep a 42/58 weight distribution, and they say such materials will definitely be coming to more road cars in the future.
Internal Thermal Management System: With all those batteries in a small space, cooling is a major concern. Audi has come up with a new system that monitors interior temperatures and can adjust cooling to the batteries and all other electric components as needed. If that isn’t enough, the R8 e-tron has air intakes positioned on the front grille and in front of the rear wheel wells that can open and close based on cooling requirements.
Welcome to the future.
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