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Innovation

Audi's e-tron concept car: Four motors, all electric (and a heat pump)

For electric cars to really become the norm they will have to provide performance on par with cars today. Worries about range will have to fade. And ideally, electric cars will have a few eye-opening perks besides gas savings.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor on

Audi unveiled its e-tron electric sports car with four motors, two on each axle, for a 0-to-60 mph time of 4.8 seconds or so.

According to Audi, the automaker set out to develop a two seater that used electric power in mind throughout the vehicle from the heat plump to the drive system to the networking. Audi says:

The design makes it clear that the e-tron belongs in the major leagues of sports cars, and the package takes into account the specific realities of an electric vehicle. The battery is directly behind the passenger cabin for an optimal center of gravity and axle load distribution.

Audi acknowledges that "there is still a lot of work to do before electric cars are ready for volume production." The biggest hurdle is an integrated energy and storage system. Audi says it's looking at the possibilities.

For electric cars to really become the norm they will have to provide performance on par with cars today. Worries about range will have to fade. And ideally, electric cars will have a few eye-opening perks---besides gas savings---to entice folks that love to just drive.

In the meantime, it's worth considering some of Audi's moves. The most interesting item may be the e-tron's heat pump---a first for a car. Audi describes the heat pump this way:

Unlike a combustion engine, the electric drive system may not produce enough waste heat under all operating conditions to effectively heat the interior. Other electric vehicles are equipped with electric supplemental heaters, which consume a relatively large amount of energy. The heat pump used by Audi – and commonly used in buildings – is a highly efficient machine that uses mechanical work to provide heat with a minimum input of energy.

A high-efficiency climate control system is used to cool the interior. It works together with the thermal management system to also control the temperature of the high-voltage battery. The battery, the power electronics and the electric motors must be kept at their respective ideal operating temperatures to achieve optimal performance and range.

As soon as the vehicle is connected to a charging station the vehicle is preconditioned as appropriate by the thermal management and other associated systems.

The drive system is heated if temperatures are cool, and cooled if hot. This preconditioning can also be extended to the interior, if necessary, so that the passengers can step into a cabin that has been heated or cooled as appropriate for their comfort.

Also see: A hydrogen car is not a hydrogen economy

Among Audi's key e-tron points:

  • Lightweight construction is top priority to reduce road resistance.
  • The automaker focused on packaging the electronic drive system so it's integrated with the battery. Audi says putting the battery in fron tof the rear axle ensures load distribution without compromising design and interior space.
  • The battery system is water cooled.
  • A "needs-based" energy management system controls all functions of the car.
  • A thermal management system accounts for the interior as well as battery and drive system.
  • Produce vehicle safety on par with today's production materials.
  • Provide networked information to create an optimized driving strategy. This system will account for traffic light cycle times and traffic flow.

Audi provides a bevy of details in its statement, but the pictures tell the story better.


This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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