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Audi unleashes hi-tech PB18 e-tron concept car

From:Greg Kable 2018-08-29 20:26:37

Audi has previewed its plans for a new headlining electric-powered supercar, possibly as a replacement for the existing second-generation R8, with the unveiling of the new PB18 e-tron concept.

The rakish coupe, revealed at the 2018 Pebble Beach Concourse and hence its PB18 name, was created in a joint design and engineering program between the newly established Audi Design Loft based in Malibu, USA and Audi Sport in Neckarsulm, Germany in what is being billed as a vision for the “high-performance supercar of tomorrow”.

As well as providing a pointer to how Audi envisages its supercar of the future will look, the new 570kW concept also hints at plans by the German car maker to adopt the latest in solid-state battery technology as a means to radically reduce weight and improve the packaging of its upcoming e-tron models. Together with a body constructed of aluminium, carbon fibre and plastic composite materials, the new four-wheel drive Audi is claimed to weigh less than 1550kg.

The PB18 e-tron draws on the styling lineage first established on the Audi Aicon concept revealed at the 2017 Frankfurt motor show, albeit with a more dramatic cab-forward silhouette and an extended cockpit that incorporates tapered rear side windows and a large rear window that together hint at the look of a modern-day shooting brake.

Key elements within the design include a heavily structured front end featuring a bold hexagon shape grille and sizeable air ducts set within corner as well as thin laser beam touting headlamps and a prominent splitter design to direct air evenly across a flat undertray.

Further back, the PB18 e-tron receives large front wheel arches, a prominent under cut to the lower section of its long doors, ultra wide sills, window-within-window glasshouse, rear view cameras and cooling ducts within the leading edge of the rear wheels. The wide track stance of the new car is further emphasized by large 22-inch wheels, each featuring eight asymmetrically design spokes intended to resemble turbine inlets, and shod with 275/35 profile front and 35/30 profile rear tyres.

The rear is dominated by wide rear hunches, a plunging rear window, adjustable rear spoiler element, full width light band and a high mounted diffuser – the latter of which can be adjusted downward to increase downforce.

Developed under the working title Level Zero, the PB18 e-tron eschews all of the various autonomous driving functions featured on recent Audi concept cars for a more purist approach that aims to place the driver in the thick of the action with very little in the way of comfort orientated items.

The adoption of full electronic steering, throttle and brake functions has allowed Audi to provide its latest concept with an intriguing variable cockpit design that allows the driver’s seat and dashboard to be positioned in the choice of two different positions, either to the left of the interior as in a typical left-hand-drive car or in the centre as in a traditional race car.

Audi says the idea for the unique variable cockpit design was inspired, in part, by the layout of its Le Mans-winning R18 e-tron quattro LMP1 race car. It allows the driver to choose between a centre driving position when driving alone, or a more conventional driving position to provide limited space within the right-hand side of the interior for a passenger.

“We want to offer the driver an experience that is otherwise available only in a racing car like the Audi R18,” said Gael Buzyn, head of the Audi Design Loft. “That’s why we developed the interior around the ideal driver’s position in the centre. Nevertheless, our aim was to also give the PB18 e-tron a high degree of everyday usability, not just for the driver, but also for a potential passenger.”

At 4530mm in length, 2000mm in width and 1150mm in height, the new Audi concept is 100mm longer, 60mm wider and 90mm lower than the R8. The PB18 e-tron also boasts a wheelbase that is 50mm longer than Ingolstadt’s flagship supercar at 2700mm.

The adoption of the shooting brake like rear end and lack of complex drivetrain hardware at the rear underscores Audi’s intention to provide its new concept with a high level of usability, resulting in a boot that offers 470-litres of luggage space. A bespoke luggage set helps make optimum use of the space provided.

The PB18 e-tron is powered by a trio of electric motors – one mounted up front within the front axle delivering 150kW and two sited at the rear within the rear axle with 225kW each.

The combined system output is put at 500kW, although a boost function is conceived to allow the driver to call up 570kW for brief periods of full throttle acceleration, endowing it with a weight to power ratio of 2.6kg per kW.  Torque is no less impressive, peaking at a solid 830Nm the moment you hit the accelerator.

By comparison, the most powerful of Audi’s second-generation R8 models runs a naturally-aspirated 5.2-litre V10 petrol engine delivering 449kW and 560Nm of torque.

The heady reserves combine with four-wheel drive traction to provide the new Audi concept with a theoretical 0-100km/h time that Audi describes as “scarcely more than two seconds”. The German car maker has not quoted a top speed for the PB18 just yet, though it does confirm it has been conceived to run to over 300km/h and says the driver can vary it according to the conditions in a move aimed at extending the range.

Audi claims significant efficiency gains with its latest electric driveline through the adoption of new brake regeneration system. It also says the cab-forward design of the PB18 e-tron serves to provide it with a centre of gravity located behind the seats in a position similar to today’s R8 for highly dynamic handling properties.

Energy for the new Audi’s three motors is provided by a liquid cooled solid-state battery with a capacity of 95kWh. Mounted underneath the boot at the rear, it is claimed to provide a maximum range of up to 500km on the latest WLTP cycle.

With 800 volt compatibility, Audi claims the PB18 e-tron’s battery can be fully recharged in around 15 minutes. Alternatively, it can also be charged cordlessly via induction with Audi’s so-called Wireless Charging system.

Drawing a link to its motorsport activities, Audi’s latest concept uses a suspension system inspired by its R18 e-tron quattro LMP1 race car with independent lower and upper transverse control arms, a push rod system up front and a pull-rod arrangement at the rear – each end fitted with variable magnetic ride dampers.


Editor:Greg Kable