The Audi R8 e-tron has hit roads in Germany at the beginning of a development program that aims to have the all-electric, four-wheel drive supercar on sale by the end of 2012.
Very much a toe in the water exercise on the way to the establishment of more volume orientated zero emission e-tron badged models, the R8 e-tron is planned to be built individually to order in a limited run of no more than 1000 units.
Pricing of the new two seater has not yet been revealed. However, Audi officials say it will cost more than the R8 V8, which sells for £82,555 in the UK. By way of comparison, the similarly-conceived Lotus Elise based Telsa roadster retails here for £86,950.
The prototype version of the R8 e-tron captured here undergoing testing on public roads for the very first time adheres closely to the original concept wheeled out at last year’s Frankfurt with a shape highly reminiscent of existing V8 and V10 petrol powered versions of Audi’s performance flagship.
Clues to the new Audi’s electric driveline come by way of its complete lack of external cooling ducts. In keeping with the earlier concept, it also boasts a blanked off rear screen. At 4260mm in length, 1900mm in width and 1230mm in height, the R8 e-tron is 170mm shorter, a scant 5mm narrower and 5mm higher than the R8 V8. It also rids on a wheelbase that, at 2600mm, is 50mm shorter than its mid-engined Audi sibling.
At this early stage there’s no official word on whether Audi plans both right- and left-hand drive versions of the Tesla challenging supercar, but Ingolstadt engineers say the modular nature of the driveline makes it possible to provide both without expensive re-engineering of its aluminium spaceframe structure or front bulkhead.
The four wheel drive R8 e-tron is propelled by a four independent electric motors – two mounted within the centre of the front axle and the other two within the rear axle, each producing a sturdy 78bhp and 830lb ft of torque. This provides the slippery two seater with a total of 313bhp along with an immense 3319lb ft at the wheels – the latter relating to around 502lb ft in real world terms, according to Audi. It puts the range at 154 miles on the EU combined driving cycle
The motors draw electricity from a 53kWh lithium ion battery pack sited behind the passenger compartment in the space usually taken up by the standard R8’s petrol engine and, together with its associated electronics package, converter and wiring loom, weighing 470kg. Each motor is mated to its own single speed gearbox and an external cooling system via the air conditioning system.
Audi claims the production version of the R8 e-tron will be capable of a 0-62mph time of around 4.8sec, making it 0.2sec slower than the R8 V8. Initial plans call for its top speed to be limited to 124mph to protect the charge of the battery, although the final specification won’t be locked in until engineers sign off the new car, something that’s likely to take place towards the end of next year in time for its planned launch in 2012.