“You can very well imagine that at some point in time we will have an electric supercar,” said Peter Mertens, Audi’s new R&D boss, at the Formula E race in Berlin earlier this month.
First mooted as far back as 2009, the R8 e-tron had a tortuous development, one that became mired in Audi’s internal politics. It was cancelled by Audi’s then development boss Wolfgang Dürheimer back in 2013 on the basis that battery technology was insufficient to deliver the targeted performance. Then Dürheimer’s replacement, Volkswagen’s engineering supremo, Ulrich Hackenberg, ordered that the e-tron be put into very limited production, with sales lasting just 19 months until the death of the first-generation R8 in 2015.
Hackenberg has since departed, following the Dieselgate scandal, but Mertens — newly arrived from Volvo — made it clear that he is keen for Audi to have another halo electric model, although plans for such a car are still at an early stage.
“The question is ‘would I like to make it happen soon?’ and the answer is yes, of course,” he said. “For a brand like Audi, a supercar is always interesting and it’s a segment in which we have been playing. We have been a very serious player.”
Mertens has committed Audi to the development of e-tron models that will shadow the full line-up of the brand’s combustion-powered offerings.
However, his insistence that electric Audis will be distinct models in their own right suggests any range-topper would have a unique design rather than being another R8 spin-off like the e-tron.
Mertens said technical collaboration with Porsche is likely on fast EVs, and a super-sports version is likely to feature high-performance 800v electrics in place of the 400v system of lesser Audis.
He said: “800v puts a significant extra cost on the bill. We need to evaluate whether customers will be prepared to pay that… In segments like super-sports cars, the answer will be yes, no doubt about it.”