MEDIA REVIEWS is a compilation of reviews and write-ups of test drives of various e-drive vehicles by the different authors and media. Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of EV World. Click the article title to expand the story.
Audi Aggressively Prices A3 e-tron for US Market
Electric hybrid crossover base model could be priced competitively against 2016 Chevrolet Volt after $4,200 federal tax credit.
EV Worldwire 07 Aug 2015
Later this year, Chevrolet rolls out its second generation Chevrolet Volt, which will be priced at $33,995US MSRP. Considering the first generation Volt sold for more than $40,000 originally, that's a dramatic drop in pricing for a considerably better car.
That poses a serious challenge to its competitors, which now will include Audi in the form of its A3 e-tron, pictured above. Where the new Volt claims an EV-mode range up to 53 miles, the best Audi can do is thought to be 30 miles, which considering its battery pack is about half the size of that in the Volt, is, nonetheless, no small achievement. It suggests that Audi is either using its energy more efficiently or its pushing the usable energy limits further than GM, which only uses about 50% of the energy in the battery in order to extend its useful life the warranted 8 years and still deliver the promised EV range.
Battery recharge time at Level 2 is said to be 2 hours and 15 mins. Its combined 203 hp gasoline and electric drive train can accelerated the car from 0-60 mph in about 7.5 seconds.
So far to date, Audi has sold some 4,800 A3 e-trons in Europe in 2015. It's estimated that US sales should be around 600 per month. The starting MSRP is $37,900US, while the top-of-the-line "Prestige" model will go for $46,800US.
Great Barrier Reef Test Drive of Audi's A3 Sportback e-tron
Matt Campbell rates the electric hybrid version of the A3 Sportback as an 8-out-of-10 after test driving the e-tron-powered model on a runway at Great Barrier Reef Airport.
Car Advice/Australia 27 Aug 2014
An airport runway on an island in the Great Barrier Reef isn’t a normal location for a car launch, but then the Audi A3 Sportback e-tron isn’t really a normal car.
The new petrol-electric plug-in hybrid A3 hatch is set to arrive in Australia in March 2015, but the vehicles we tested under the sunny skies of Hamilton Island were the same examples that were on location at the vehicle’s international launch in Austria in June.
The left-hand drive, pre-production A3 e-trons still wore German number plates, and while these vehicles aren’t perfectly representative of the finished product, they offered enough indication that the production model could be the new benchmark in plug-in hybrid motoring.
Building on the already impressive A3 hatchback, the e-tron features a high-tech hybrid drivetrain that combines a 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine and an automatic six-speed dual-clutch transmission, with a 75kW electric motor sandwiched in between them that draws power from a bank of 8.8kWh lithium-ion batteries under the rear seat. Power goes only to the front wheels, with combined peak outputs of 150kW of power and 350Nm of torque.
The A3 Sportback e-tron is set to have a claimed combined cycle fuel use of 1.6 litres per 100 kilometres, making it one of the most fuel-efficient vehicles on the market alongside fellow plug-in models such as the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV (1.9L/100km claimed) and Holden Volt (1.2L/100km claimed). Audi claims the car will offer a total range of up to 940km from a full tank and full battery charge, while EV range is claimed at 50km.
Unlike the standard A3 which has its petrol tank packed under the rear seat, the e-tron’s sits under the floor of the boot. That means there’s no spare wheel available (a repair kit is offered as standard) and boot space is impacted due to the higher floor, dropping to 280 litres from the more useful 380L boot in the standard hatch.
We started our test in EV mode, which uses only the batteries to power the car. The A3 e-tron feels brisk from a standstill, but if you flatten the throttle it will call the petrol engine to action, introducing “boost mode” which results in punchier acceleration. Audi claims 7.6 seconds from 0-100km/h – considerably slower than the S3 hot-hatch (5.0sec) that also wears a $60K tag.
On lesser throttle it will remain EV-only, with the motor offering smooth power delivery and decent torque through the six-speed dual-clutch ‘box. Smooth is again the best word to describe the progress as it makes its way through the cogs in EV mode, though the shifts are more alert and aggressive in hybrid mode.
Speaking of modes, there are four: EV (full electric), Hybrid Auto (both petrol and electric available and usable depending on the conditions), Hybrid Hold (petrol engine only, with batteries taken offline) and Hybrid Charge (petrol engine used to power car and recharge batteries). These can be selected using the EV button on the dashboard, or by scrolling through the MMI touch media system.
On the tarmac at Great Barrier Reef Airport, a range of slaloms and obstacles were constructed. While hardly a comprehensive test track – there was no traffic to impede the drive, nor any hills, potholes or highways – the A3 Sportback e-tron managed itself nicely.
Over a quick sprint and heavy braking test the car impressed, with decent feel and linearity offered through the brake pedal – something most hybrid models with regenerative braking can’t match. From there, a sweeping left-hander tightened to a number of quick direction changes through several chicanes, and allowed some indication of the ability of the car’s steering and suspension.
There is some detriment to its handling due to its mass. The A3 e-tron weighs 1540 kilograms excluding the driver – or about 200kg more than a standard front-drive A3 – and it can’t hide that extra weight through the tighter twists, with some notable understeer. However, its eco-friendly Contintental low rolling-resistance 17-inch tyres offer commendable grip, and the steering is precise and involving.
That MMI system is one of the best infotainment units available, with its 7.0-inch pop-up screen offering simple menu navigation and a decent connectivity system including, in these prototypes at least, a USB input for recharging and MDI cable that can both read and charge devices. The test cars were fitted with phone coverage booster systems, though it’s not clear if that technology will be offered locally. Bluetooth phone and audio streaming are part of the package, as is satellite navigation, a reverse-view camera, front and rear parking sensors and a semi-automated parking system.
TEST DRIVE: Audi A3 Sportback e-tron Electric Hybrid
The verdict of EV Fleetworld is the A3 e-tron is the 'best C-segment plug-in hybrid currently on the market...'
EV Fleet World/UK 13 Aug 2014
Much like the video market of the early 1980s, where VHS and Betamax jostled for public acceptance (and let’s not forget the LaserDisc), car manufacturers over the past decade or so have also been in a race to ensure their hybrid cars become the industry standard rather than a soon-forgotten novelty.
With Audi arriving suitably late to the plug-in hybrid party with the A3 Sportback e-tron (registrations of hybrid and plug-in cars rose 20.5% in 2013, to 32,715 units globally), perhaps now is the time when the consensus of opinion will favour this type of drivetrain above any of the market alternatives.
And there’s no reason why it shouldn’t. The e-tron system, or one that is very similar, will be adopted throughout the Volkswagen Group (Porsche already uses it in the Cayenne and Panamera, while Volkswagen will launch the Golf GTE later this year using something virtually identical), thus giving it mass market appeal and, more importantly, bucketfuls of credibility.
The initial cost, even with the £5,000 OLEV grant, works out to £29,950, which makes it just over £5,000 more expensive than the nearest equivalent 2.0-litre TDI Sport 148bhp.
And if you were expecting fantastically futuristic and super aerodynamic design, then you’re in for a bit of disappointment. If it wasn’t for “e-tron” lettering on the tailgate it would appear to be just another A3 Sportback.
And that’s much the same story on the inside too. Apart from the dashboard-mounted EV switch, the button which allows manual override of any of the four computer-controlled driving modes, and the rev counter replaced with a dedicated energy display unit, the cabin too remains unchanged. Even the bank of 96 lithium-ion battery cells, the power source needed to drive its 75kw electric motor, are so well hidden under the floor that their impact on the overall boot space means the load area stays a clear thoroughfare and loses just 100 litres of overall cargo capacity.
However, it is this sense of familiarity which makes the A3 e-tron so utterly, utterly brilliant. This defiance and quest to ensure it remains nothing other than a member of the A3 clan is as intelligent and forward-thinking as its ability to seamlessly engage its 1.4-litre TSI 150bhp petrol engine when driving conditions or battery levels dictate.
The 101bhp electric motor, which is integrated into the six-speed dual-clutch gearbox, is the default power source; meaning there’s nothing but an eerie silence as you start to drive off. And it’s good for about 30 miles and up to 80mph. Thereafter the engine management takes over. Leave it to its own devices and it’ll quietly switch between the two engines, or combine them to give some very admirable performance figures – 0.62mph in
Hooking it up to a domestic electric plug socket will fully recharge the battery in about three hours, and there’s a “charge save” option within the hybrid-mode menu. The internal regenerating system acts like a glorified alternator by exploiting lost brake energy together with power from the 1.4-litre engine. This may all seem like an engineering PhD thesis waiting to be written, but it really isn’t. The bottom line is that this car is no more difficult to drive than a normal automatic.
Audi claims a combined fuel consumption figure of 176.6mpg, with 37g/km of CO2 emissions – or a total range of up to 584 miles on one tank of petrol. I achieved 117.7mpg by switching manually between all of the hybrid modes on a route comprising a mixture of urban, motorway and rural roads, and that’s still an impressive number.
The A3 e-tron is the best C-segment plug-in hybrid currently on the market, with a well-sorted drivetrain, good range, low CO2 and stylish packaging.
105 German Audi Dealers Will Offer the A3 e-tron
The A3 e-tron carries a starting price of €37,900 in Germany and is scheduled to start deliveries this winter.
Auto Evolution 05 Aug 2014
After what seems like a year of working up an appetite, customers in Germany are finally going to be allowed a taste of Audi's first-ever plug-in hybrid mass production vehicle. The automaker announced today that 105 dealerships across the country will sell the A3 e-tron from a starting price of €37,900, with deliveries scheduled to start this winter.
The A3 e-tron is just as practical as any other A3 Sportback, but its plug-in hybrid drivetrain allows it to emit 35 grams of CO2 per kilometer. Even if driven on petrol power alone, the A3's engine only produces 104 grams per kilometer. With a fully charged battery and loaded fuel tank, this car is capable of huge cross-country strides, thanks to a range of 940 kilometers (almost 600 miles). Power comes from a combination of 1.4-liter turbo and hybrid tech delivering a combined output of 204 PS. It's quite a powerful motor, more so than any diesel available on the A3, and yet consumption is much lower: 1.5 l/100km (156.8 US mpg)(156.8 US mpg)… theoretically.
The powertrain is so sporty that Volkswagen uses it on the Golf GTE, which they market as a sister model to the GTI. If it's good enough for a hot Golf, it's got to be better than an Opel Ampera.
In order to prepare for its first-ever car with a socket, all the dealerships that sell the A3 e-tron will receive a charging station which customers can use even after the purchase. 2,000 sales, service and used car employees from all over Europe are currently being re-trained in the ways of the electric car at a training center next to Munich.
Audi even seems to have invented its own brand of electricity, called "Audi energy", provided to A3 e-tron customers from sustainable, emissions-free sources. All electricity all comes from hydroelectric power stations in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
“For Audi, the A3 Sportback e-tron marks another important step toward sustainable individual mobility,” states Wayne Griffiths, Head of Sales Germany at AUDI AG. “Our dealers have had an entirely positive response to the A3 Sportback e-tron, which shows that the combination of efficient drive technology and a sustainable energy source is really what the market is looking for.”
Audi A3 Destined for Canada Could See Equivalent of 156.8 MPG
A3 e-tron said to get up to 50 km in EV-mode and get between 78-98 (2.5-3.0L/100 km) in 'everyday life.'
Hamilton Spectator/Canada 30 Jul 2014
VIENNA, Austria Audi will bring a full plug-in hybrid to Canada next year — just the first of a whole fleet of new cars using Audi's e-tron technology.
Based on the A3 Sportback, the A3 e-tron will have a top speed of 130 km/h in all electric mode (222 km/h in hybrid mode) and a 0-100 km/h acceleration time of 7.6 seconds.
But the big news is the e-tron is expected to use only 1.5L/100 km or (US) 156.8 mpg when driven in maximum energy conservation mode. In everyday life, 2.5-3.0L/100 km is realistic.
The A3 e-tron uses a turbo 1.4-litre gasoline direct injection inline turbo four-cylinder that produces 150 hp on its own. When coupled to the 100 hp electric motor, the pair produce 204 hp and 258 lb/ft of torque. The third component is a newly developed six-speed S tronic dual clutch automatic transmission integrated into the electric motor.
The 400-volt battery, located under the rear bench seat with the gas tank under the cargo floor has a capacity of 8.8 kWh. A cellphone app provides for extremely easy remote charging and precooling/preheating.
Range on the battery alone is 50 km. After that, the engine is good for another 890 km. While driving, kinetic energy to recharge the battery can be gained by braking or coasting.
In theory, if you lived within 50 km of work (return), you would never need to stop for gasoline again.
The battery pack is an Audi design with 96 lithium-ion cells in eight modules weighing 125 kg. Because lithium-ion batteries can get very hot under full load, the battery has a separate cooling package per module.
In addition to the cooling packages, ambient air can be drawn in at above 45 Celsius and the air conditioner can also step in to help.
The A3 e-tron is a plug-in hybrid because it uses power from the grid to charge the battery. With a 230-volt Audi designed charging station, it takes 2.45 to 3.5 hours to top up the battery.
This length of time is primarily dueto the amount of electricity the cable can physically transmit. With a 300-volt system, charging time is under one hour.
The charging port is revealed when the Audi four-ring emblem on the grille slides to the left. That is one of the very few clues it is a hybrid, not an everyday A3 Sportback.
Inside, it is also a standard A3 with all the Audi specific design cues, controls, seating and build quality.
The only difference is a "power meter" instead of a tachometer, that uses a pointer to show how much juice is being taken from and added to the system.
In addition, the routing of energy is also displayed on the screen on the centre stack.
There will be four drive modes: EV (electric only), Auto (best blend of battery/engine), Hold (electric motor using engine as a dynamo) and Charge (engine and motor drive the A3 while charging the battery).
Using apps on a smartphone or tablet, the owner can access a myriad of features such as pre-starting the car so the battery is warmed up and ready to go at peak efficiency.
At the same time, you can set the climate control so the car is the desired interior temperature when the driver is ready to leave.
Another feature is using an app to enter charging time. This can be done by time or day and setting charging to 90 per cent and than adding the remaining 10 per cent just before departure so the battery is fully charged with no power loss in the interim.
Now 1.5L/100 km may sound like pie in the sky, but Audi knows people in real life will not stay pinned inside an all-electric 50 km barrier.
So to put the A3 e-tron into the real world, Audi laid out a 83 km route for journalists starting in the Vienna city core and out into the countryside into the hills that lead to the Alps north and west of the city.
The object was to use all four drive modes and try to use as little fuel as possible.
My co-driver and I did very well at 3.4L/100 km and exhausting the battery, which Audi engineers said showed we used the battery to its best effect.
Some of our group did 5.2L/100 km. The best was the previous auto journalists group at 2.0L/100 km and the worse was 7.5L/100 km. But mind you 7.5L/100 km on any gasoline car you can buy is darned good.
In the city on EV, the e-tron is soundless and even on the highway where you hold it at 100 km/h on battery alone, the interior noise level was as good as some luxury cars I can think of.
And the A3 e-tron is pure Audi in that the materials selected for the trim are top drawer and the fit and finish is what you expect when you buy one.
When the A3 e-tron arrives here in the second quarter, it will be joined by a 1.8-litre direct injection engine version. Both will be Sportback (five-door) models and both will have front drive.
Because the battery is under the floor, cargo volume is the same as the standard A3 Sportback.
There is no pricing at this point but I expect Audi will try to bring it in under the next generation, 2015 A4 plus the A3 e-tron will qualify for the $5,808 plug-in Ontario energy rebate.
Until now, plug-in hybrids, despite their theoretical better energy performance, seemed to me like a lot of extra engineering and expense for a marginally better return than an ordinary hybrid.
But with the results we got in Vienna, and the fact it is an Audi, the e-tron has changed my mind.
Test Drive: Driving the Audi A3 e-tron Electric Hybrid
Jonathan Yarkony takes the e-tron for test drive around the streets of Vienna, Austria and 'digs' what says its is sexy styling.
Autos/Canada 16 Jul 2014
Vienna, Austria – Rodin’s The Thinker sits in contemplation as we walk out to select our vehicle from the row of gleaming red 2015 Audi A3 e-trons. Is this the way of the future? Or just another compliance vehicle to meet ever-more-suffocating emissions and fuel-consumption regulations?
No doubt the latter question is the shove that is driving many manufacturers into the electric vehicle game, but Audi’s electrification and sustainability programs go slightly deeper than that. There are more efficient ways to jump into the electric vehicle game than the stillborn R8 e-tron. Audi’s dominance at Le Mans (yes, they won again this year) demonstrates the performance potential and durability of hybrids as it did with diesels before them. This is the payoff. This is the real-world car for right now.
Pure electric vehicles still come with either range limitations or prohibitive costs, though they are starting to turn the corner. Hybrids are a fair middle ground to wean us off pricey and finite resources with a variety of choices in various price points. Shoestring budget with a priority on practicality? Look at the Prius line with small (C), medium (original) and large (V) sizes for various needs. Want something with a bit of design flair and a bit more driving engagement without getting too steep in price? Try on the Volkswagen Ford Fusion Hybrid or plug-in Energi, or even the Accord Hybrid. Serious about maximizing EV operation but still need a one-car-fits-all application? Chevrolet’s Volt is not out of reach.
However, the luxury market are where things are really heating up. Almost every major luxury brand has delivered a new hybrid or electric vehicle recently; BMW the i3, Lexus adding the NX300h to its stable of hybrids, Infiniti their core model Q50 gaining the hybrid treatment, and Acura, um, well, still working on their NSX hybrid supercar, so the RLX Hybrid will have to do for now (the ILX hybrid didn’t work out so well) – oh wait, that’s not available yet, either.
Audi has chosen to enter the market with the smallest car in its North American lineup, the A3, but with a twist. Where the previous generation A3 arrived on our shores exclusively as a Sportback (Audi-speak for hatchback), the recently launched A3 is primarily a sedan offered with three conventional powertrains (two turbo gas models and one turbodiesel) while the Sportback body style is reserved only for the E-tron plug-in hybrid. If I were running the show, it would be the diesel I’d ship to North America in hatchback configuration, but I guess Audi actually want to sell their diesels. Will the diesel-wagon (manual all-wheel drive, of course) set make the leap to hybrid hatches? They always end up buying Miatas anyways, so no point catering too much to them.
Back here in the real world, this is the hybrid we get from Audi, and it is a good one. It takes the strong, compact dimensions of the A3 sedan and adds a well-proportioned roofline and hatch, adding to the utility and the style. This thing is downright sexy. I dig it.
While hatchback styling may not be for everyone, you can’t argue with the utility. Audi cites cargo space as 280 L in the trunk and 1,210 max, but it is at least the equivalent of the C-Max Energi, which is claimed at 544 L and 1,211, and slightly wider and deeper than the BMW i3, estimated at 260 L and about 1,100. Heck, even the Golf is endowed with 640, and this platform mate isn’t far off in most dimensions, though cargo space is down 100 L due to the hybrid running gear’s batteries (conventional European Sportback models are listed at 380 L to the E-tron’s 280). As with the sedan, passenger space in the front row is acceptable, but legroom and headroom in the rear is on the tight side, and materials are top notch, with one of the models we sampled sporting alcantara seat inserts.
Those batteries are lithium-ion, housed in a 96-cell array under the rear passenger seat with cooling packs nested between the modules. They offer a total of 8.8 kWh of energy storage, and can be charged in 3 hours, 45 minutes using European household current or a Stage 2 charger. North American households with 110V will likely take approximately 8-10 hours, though Audi did not have exact numbers. Audi has a sleek, glossy black charging station, though pricing is not yet available for the vehicle itself, never mind accessory equipment.
Test Drive: Audi's Electric Hybrid A3 e-tron Sportback
Nat Barnes finds the A3 e-tron a 'creditable first step and only whets the appetite for what’s to come in the future.'
Auto Trader/UK 06 Jul 2014
After teasing numerous electric concept cars, Audi’s first e-tron model has finally arrived – the A3 Sportback. As its name suggests, the e-tron is Audi’s first plug-in hybrid (first deliveries are due early next year), but it certainly won’t be its last.
This is the start of a range of alternatively-fuelled models from Audi that will encompass hybrids and all-electric models. In the pipeline are e-tron versions of the next Q7 off-roader (due next year) and the next R8 supercar.
Just as with BMW’s i range, it’s a mouth-watering prospect that shows Audi’s future commitment to alternatively fuelled vehicles, even if the main appeal is to those using them as company cars because of their substantial tax savings. Despite that, Audi has already said that its supply will be restricted for the first full year of sales, meaning that the e-trons are likely to be swamped by the 22,000-odd conventional A3 Sportbacks leaving UK showrooms each year.
Mind you, it’s hard to spot the differences. Blink and you’ll miss the e-tron’s tell-tale signs on the outside – the e-tron badges on the tailgate and front wings and the absence of a visible exhaust pipe are the only obvious giveaways.
Under your right foot is a turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol engine combined with a 75kw electric motor, giving the A3 a total of 204bhp, which is enough to get the car from 0 to 60mph in 7.6 seconds and on to a 137mph top speed. Officially speaking, it will also return 37g/km emissions and 176.6mpg combined cycle fuel economy, although as always with plug-in hybrids that latter figure will be largely unachievable in the real world.
However, you’ll notice the lack of any engine noise when you first press the starter button, as the car starts up in electric mode. You have the choice of four different modes, from full EV (using the available electrical power) to Hybrid Auto, where the car chooses between battery and engine power – or both – depending on the traffic conditions and speed. The other two modes are Hybrid Hold and Hybrid Charge which, respectively, either retain the battery’s level of charge or increase it by using the engine.
In reality, the Auto mode is the most logical one to stay in for the majority of the time. The trip computer shows your remaining electric-only range (a maximum of 31 miles is available on a full four-hour charge) as well your remaining electric and petrol combined range (a max of 584 miles, compared to the standard A3 turbodiesel’s 706 miles).
From the driver’s seat, other than the rev counter showing economy and recharging modes, it’s business as usual; and, on the road, the e-tron feels little different from a standard A3. Except, that is, when some corners enter the equation, as they make the differences more obvious. The standard A3 Sportback was never the sharpest hatchback around, but the e-tron’s 220kg extra weight means the car feels less lithe and the ride is slightly firmer. There’s no question that there’s been a loss of driver enjoyment in the transition to the e-tron.
Many company car drivers will feel that sacrifice is worth it, however, because of the aforementioned tax savings. The e-tron’s benefit-in-kind tax rating is just 5 per cent, and ultimately, that is what will dictate the almost guaranteed success of this A3 e-tron.
The £5,700 higher list price is obviously relevant for the handful of retail customers buying it with their own money, but those company car tax sums will be the deciding factor for many. The A3 e-tron might not be as daring as BMW’s i3, but it’s a creditable first step and only whets the appetite for what’s to come in the future. Roll on the R8 e-tron…
By Nat Barnes
Test Drive II: Audi Plugs In Its A3 Sportback
With its combination gasoline engine and electric drive, the A3 e-tron could get up to 900 km (560 mi) with a full battery and fuel tank.
Independent/Ireland 06 Jul 2014
AUDI'S 5dr A3 Sportback plug-in hybrid, the e-tron, will get here in January and marks the start of several others of its kind from the German maker.
Among its competitors are the likes of the battery-powered BMW i3. It will appeal on the basis that, unlike electric cars, it has no 'range anxiety' as it is capable of more than 900km on a full tank and battery.
Recharging times have been reduced. A full charge at a public outlet will take just over two hours while plugging in at home will replenish in just three hours and 45 minutes. The two charging points are neatly tucked in behind the four rings on the front grille.
No price has yet been announced but you can expect it to cost somewhere in the late €30,000s after combined grants of €7,500 have been factored in.
On a test run over four hours, incorporating urban and motorway driving, the e-tron coped nonchalantly with the conditions.
Even the presence of four burly adults failed to unsettle it.
The fact that, overall, we achieved a modest return of just over 56mpg – some have chalked up figures as high as 180mpg – underlined the need for practice. It also emphasised more the fun than the science of the exercise. . . which is precisely what motoring should be about.
Audi chief Rupert Stadler says the e-tron will be followed by other plug-in hybrids.
The company is convinced they represent the best solution for low-emission cars because they don't rely on a charge every 160km or so.
The e-tron can, it says, cover 50km on just the battery alone.
Interesting that in Germany, Audi is selling the car through a network of 100 dealerships where service personnel have been trained to work with the technology.
The dealerships have a charging station that customers can use for free during business hours.
The e-tron has a 150bhp 1.4-litre direct injection turbo petrol engine and a 102bhp electric motor within the 6spd dual-clutch transmission. Top speed is 222kmh in hybrid mode and 130kmh in pure electric mode.
Average emissions come to 35g/km (1.5l/100km).
The engine on its own uses 4.5 litres every 100km (105 g/km).
The hybrid system adds 300kg to the car's weight – but that doesn't seem to affect the low running costs. And ultimately that is the e-tron's real appeal.
Audi to Introduce A3 e-tron Sportback at Busan Auto Show
Audi will feature 12 models at the Korea Auto Show with the A3 being the first plug-in hybrid model.
Korea Times/Korea 27 Apr 2014
Audi Korea will introduce the Audi A3 Sportback e-tron in Korea at an upcoming motor show in Busan.
The Audi e-tron refers to a series of electric and hybrid concept cars. It is expected to be one of the key models at the 13th Busan International Motor Show, which will kick off on May 30 at the Busan Exhibition and Convention Center in the southern port city.
A total of 198 vehicles from 15 Korean and foreign carmakers will be displayed during the 11-day event. Audi will feature 12 models.
Based on the five-door hatchback, the A3 Sportback e-tron is the most efficient version of the Audi A3. It is a plug-in hybrid with a total range of 940 kilometers. It allows the driver to choose the electric vehicle mode, on which he or she can travel up to 50 kilometers without using petrol propulsion.
The A3 Sportback e-tron comes equipped with a 1.4-liter turbo fuel stratified injection (TFSI) engine with an electric motor, which can generate 204 horsepower and takes only 7.6 seconds to reach a speed of 100 kilometers per hour. The electric motor also gives the car an instant torque of 35.7 kilogram-meters at relatively low revolutions per minute.
Audi will soon start selling the A3 Sportback e-tron in Europe and then launch it here in the first half of the next year. The German luxury automobile brand will also launch the plug-in hybrid versions of the Q7 and the A4.
Launching a series of hybrid models is a part of Audi’s efforts to achieve “CO2-neutral mobility,” that is, to develop green cars without compromising premium features. The firm plans to launch an e-tron model in all of its segments and sell at least 100,000 vehicles from the e-tron family.
An example of the firm’s green initiatives is the e-gas project that began in June last year. The project aims to promote sustainability not only with cars but also with all types of energy sources.
Audi also opened a new plant in Werlte, Germany, which produces hydrogen and synthetic methane ? these clean fuels come from renewable energy, water and carbon dioxide.
The power-to-gas plant will also provide hydrogen from electrolysis to fuel-cell cars. This “e-gas” can be converted back to electricity and used for intermediate storage of renewable energies.
Audi is proud to become the first automaker to “develop a chain of sustainable energy carriers.” It has also been developing technology for new power trains that can maximize the performance of the new types of clean fuels, said the company.
Test Drive: Audi A3 e-tron Plug-In Hybrid
David Undercoffler concludes the A3 e-tron's success will depend on how Audi prices the electric hybrid that has an EV-range of up to 30+ miles.
LA Times 12 Feb 2014
Same great hatchback flavor. Now with less fuel!
That’s the theme behind Audi’s forthcoming 2015 A3 Sportback e-tron, a compact hatchback due in early 2015 that will be the first ever plug-in hybrid from the German automaker.
Audi A3 fans will tell you that this model range is about to hit a significant growth spurt. Previously, it was only available in the U.S. as a four-door hatchback with either a turbocharged four-cylinder or a turbocharged-diesel engine. The car was a relatively small-time player in Audi’s lineup but attracted a loyal following of drivers who appreciated the premium feel in a compact package.
For 2015, Audi has big things planned for the A3 lineup. Because the A4 has grown in both size and price over the years, it’s opened up room at the bottom of Audi’s lineup for a new entry-level sedan. Thus, the 2015 A3 will come in sedan form in the U.S. for the first time. A diesel, convertible and high-performance S3 version are also planned.
Similar changes are happening over at Mercedes, with the brand recently launching its compact CLA sedan to widespread popularity with buyers. Starting at a hair over $30,000, both the CLA and Audi A3 seek to lure in a younger driver and those who might not have considered the brands to be within their price range.
Audi will spend much of 2014 rolling out the mainstream versions of the A3. But things get electric in early 2015, when the Sportback e-tron version will hit showrooms. Based on the same platform as the sedan, this version will only come as a hatchback, making it somewhat of a spiritual successor to the outgoing diesel A3.
This plug-in A3 is powered by two sources. A 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine makes 150 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with an electric motor for a total output of 204 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. Audi’s S-Tronic six-speed, dual-clutch transmission moves this power to the front wheels, and the car will scoot from zero to 60 mph in 7.6 seconds.
The 8.8 kWh lithium-ion battery pack that powers this motor is wedged under the rear seats, so there’s no noticeable penalty in terms of the A3’s cargo room. Plus, the seats still fold down for bonus room. The weight of the batteries has been kept to a minimum, helping the A3 e-tron weigh in at a very reasonable 3,483 pounds.
In addition to better handling, this relatively low curb weight for a plug-in hybrid also helps the car’s efficiency. Just how green the A3 e-tron will be has yet to be determined; Audi hasn’t completed final testing for the U.S. It does expect a final rating of above 100 MPGe and said the electric-only range will be 31 miles. The car’s total range is 584 miles.
The A3 defaults to electric-only driving when you start it up. Quiet and crisp, the electric motor is plenty for city driving and can even take the car up to 81 mph.
Once the battery is drained, the gas engine takes over while recharging the battery at the same time. In either mode, the car felt plenty eager, and drivers in a particular hurry need only to press hard on the gas pedal to engage both systems for maximum power.
What was most impressive about the dual-power sourcing was how seamlessly the A3 would switch between the two. While this A3’s handling isn’t outright sporty, it feels much like the outgoing hatchback it’s replacing. The pre-production prototype we spent half a day in could use additional suspension tuning, but with about a year to go before this car hits the market, count on Audi to iron out the kinks.
Otherwise, there was little to indicate that this tester didn’t roll out of an Audi dealership. Inside, the cabin was tightly bolted together and previewed the updated interior all A3s will have. A slick screen rises out of the center of the dashboard with a sleek row of (dual) climate control buttons arranged below it.
The switchgear is kept to a minimum thanks to the A3’s reliance on a rotary knob on the center console just aft of the shifter. The overall effect is minimalism balanced with 21st century tech in a way that can appeal to anybody.
The deciding factor on this A3 e-tron’s success will likely be what kind of price Audi slaps on the hatchback. The A3 has never been cheap: the previous generation started at around $31,000. With the extra tech crammed into this e-tron model, that starting price will likely rise above $40,000.
At that point, it’s a justifiable purchase, considering the going rate for something like a Honda Accord plug-in hybrid is around $40,000. There’s a great balance of efficiency, practicality, tech and refinement in this A3. But if the asking price creeps anywhere past that point, the A3 e-tron risks demanding too much green to go green.
Automobile Meets Audi's Answer to Star Trek's Dr. Spock
Automobile magazine's Michael Jordan, not the basketball star, reviews the 2015 Audi A3 e-tron Sportback after zipping around So. Cal's Pacific coastline.
Automobile Magazine 04 Jan 2014
SANTA MONICA, CA -- Santa Monica calls out to every engineer in distant Germany who might be working on a squeaky clean electric vehicle. This suburb of Los Angeles is the epicenter of worldwide EV respectability, the place where the Toyota Prius hybrid changed the way that even the most self-indulgent Americans think about cars. No wonder this town is the site for the first appearance in America of the 2015 Audi A3 Sportback e-tron, a plug-in hybrid that goes on sale in Europe in spring 2014 and then arrives in the U.S. in early 2015.
When a German engineer gets off the plane in Los Angeles for the first time, he expects to be greeted by a vast forest of churning windmills powering the electric grid, plus an array of solar batteries on the roof of every Starbucks. Imagine his surprise to find that in Santa Monica, electricity is really all about glamor. It’s more about looking and feeling natural than actually being natural. And the Audi A3 e-tron has the right size, the right science, the right price and the right respectability to deliver the right glamor in this town of software engineers and movie executives.
As friendly as a Starbucks on four wheels
The 2015 Audi A3 e-tron combines laid-back, no-hassle convenience with a deeply thoughtful approach to environmental respectability. Get what you want, but still feel good about yourself afterward. As they say in Southern California, it’s so L.A.
What you have here is a plug-in hybrid. A battery-powered electric motor delivers 31 miles of EV cruising with zero emissions. Afterward, the turbocharged, 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine takes over, and the total cruising range can be as much as 585 miles.
We’re told that this combination of EV capability and gas-powered convenience really suits the slightly upscale Audi clientele, which is more likely to live in the suburbs. Audi figures EV cruising range will take care of daily commuting, while longer trips will be taken on weekends. This is why Audi plans to create a range of plug-in hybrid vehicles, but no pure EVs.
EV science at your command
When you look beneath the skin of the front-wheel-drive A3 e-tron, you don’t find any surprises. The four-cylinder engine up front has been jiggled into a slightly offset position to accommodate the electric motor, while the battery pack has been packaged beneath the rear seat and the gas tank has been shuffled to the rear.
At the same time, there’s some cleverness to the detailing. The 1.4-liter engine is turbocharged and intercooled, while special engineering measures reduce the wearing impact of high loads right after cold starts while the vehicle is in motion. A double-action clutch allows the liquid-cooled electric motor to start up the engine in a way that makes the transition between EV mode and engine mode feel seamlessly smooth. The transmission is a six-speed version of Audi’s dual-clutch automated manual transmission with its slow but smooth shifting action. The 276-pound battery pack of 96 lithium-ion cells has its own liquid cooling system, which ensures trouble-free electric starts even when the weather is too hot or too cold.
These are all the little things that should remind you that any electric-related powertrain in a motorcar is not just something that you can buy for five dollars down at Radio Shack. Even so, the only thing that the driver of the A3 e-tron really notices is a smooth delivery of power. The electric motor has an output of 75 kW (101 hp) of power and 243 lb-ft of torque, while the engine makes 150 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. When the motor and engine are working together, you get 204 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque.
This is enough power to get the 3471-pound A3 Sportback e-tron to 60 mph in 7.4 seconds. The car will achieve 81 mph in EV mode (but not for long!), though it’s more likely that you’ll be driving with sufficient sanity to get a cruising range of 31 miles in EV mode and then 585 miles of cruising range overall if you drive like your aged grandma. Flat out, the A3 e-tron will go 138 mph.
We drive with Audi’s answer to Mr. Spock
Well, he didn’t exactly give us the Vulcan high sign, but we did drive with an Audi engineer in the passenger seat as our on-board science officer as we embarked on a two-hour test drive. From Santa Monica, we drove beside the Pacific Ocean to Malibu, then into the Santa Monica Mountains and finally back again on Pacific Coast Highway.
As you’d expect from an A3 with an extra 276 pounds of road-hugging weight from a battery pack, the 3471-pound Audi A3 Sportback e-tron delivers a resilient ride on the highway, relaxed and yet always in control on its 103-inch wheelbase. Despite the weight, the front-wheel-drive A3 still makes its moves predictably when the road begins to weave – not particularly agile, but not sluggish, either.
We were surprised at the action of the brakes, as the electric motor itself provides the braking action and energy recovery, not regenerative brakes at the wheels. The mechanical brakes at the wheels only engage when you step very hard and deeply on the brake pedal. Nevertheless, the brakes are both very easy to modulate and very effective. The electric-assist steering also feels effective, perhaps due to the 225/45R-17 Dunlop Sport Maxx tires. Meanwhile the action of the dual-clutch transmission proves to be one more thing that makes the A3 e-tron feel perfectly normal. And we barely noticed when the engine finally came to life as we drove through the canyons.
Science lesson ahead
The science came home to us when Mr. Spock showed us the way the Audi MMI interface could be used to tune the regenerative effect of the brakes when you lift off the throttle pedal – more when you’re driving fast just like a Mini E, less when you’re coasting in traffic like a Prius. You can even tailor the modes to suit your own personal driving profile.
But whatever driving mode you’re in, the engine, motor, and transmission all combine to deliver enough power to press you back into the seat with some authority whenever you push down hard on the right pedal. On the other side of the coin, you can actually postpone the car’s adoption of pure EV mode, as if you were driving to the center of a city where engine use would be taxed or disallowed altogether. The only thing the A3 e-tron won’t do is creep smoothly in traffic, as the combination of the sudden onset of EV torque and the frequently abrupt engagement of a dual-clutch transmission after coming to a stop is not a happy event.
We’re told that a DC quick-charger fills the battery pack of the A3 Sportback e-tron with juice in about two hours, a 220V home outlet will do the task in 3 hours 45 minutes, and an 110V home outlet will do the job in a bit more than 7 hours.
Another practical consideration is the trunk, which has a slightly higher floor to accommodate the 10.6-gallon fuel tank beneath. What you get is 9.9 cubic feet when the rear seat is up and 39.6 cubic feet when the seatback is down. The truth is, Audi wagonettes have always been short on cargo volume, and the A3 Sportback e-tron is unlikely to confront any utility task more challenging than bringing home organic produce from the Santa Monica farmer’s market.
So what good is it, anyway?
As plug-in hybrids go, the Audi A3 Sportback e-tron is a very, very nice one. It is so refined and comfortable that you never feel as if you’ve had to compromise your quality of life to feel like a good person (which is so L.A.). Moreover, as Mr. Spock said to us, “The e-tron flattens the hills, because whatever extra energy you use on the way up, you get back on the way down.”
Of course, the 2015 Audi A3 Sportback e-tron won’t be cheap when it arrives in the U.S. a little more than a year from now, as it costs the equivalent of $51,000 in Germany at the moment.
With a vehicle that uses a lot of new science like a plug-in hybrid, even the little choices made by the engineers are actually big ones. So far, it appears that the Audi engineers are making the right choices.
Motoring On the A3 e-tron Electric Hybrid
Motoring's Michael Taylor gets a 'sneak' test drive of Audi's answer to the BMW i3 or more technically correct, the Chevrolet Volt.
Motoring/Australia 13 Dec 2013
The streets of downtown Los Angeles are no place for those short of power and image. That goes for cars, too.
Most cars get both of those things in the same way: they burn stuff to create mechanical energy, and send that through some whizzy, spinning bits before turning the wheels. The Audi A3 e-tron isn’t like that. Unlike most cars, it has the ability to drive its front wheels via two motors at once. One of those motors burns fuel, but the other is an electric motor.
Ah, you say, the Prius and its successors have been doing that for years. True, but unlike most hybrids, the A3 e-tron can double as a pure electric car, something a standard hybrid can manage for maybe two or three kilometres of feather-footed commuting at very low speed. The A3 e-tron can do it for 50km, and do it convincingly.
If it’s an eco-friendly image you want to project, nothing does it like an electric car, and if it’s power you want, nothing does it like punching down the road with the power of two motors at once.
Electric cars might have a cult following but their limited range brings on a level of range anxiety that keeps most chequebooks closed and most wallets aimed at petrol or diesel bowsers.
Due to be released next year, the A3 e-tron is Audi’s answer to BMW’s i3 and any other electric challenger on the market. The plug-in hybrid is capable of taking you to and from work and the shops as a pure electric car and then letting its 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine take over on longer hauls.
Essentially adopting the running gear of the prototype Volkswagen Golf Plug-In Hybrid, the A3 e-tron turns into a surprise packet by being far more sophisticated, far more nuanced and far easier to use than the still-emergent Volkswagen machine.
Proper plug-in hybrids like the A3 e-tron will wipe that out, even if you’ll need to write a far larger cheque in the first place. In Europe, at least, a legion of studies show most people are driving between 40km and 50km a day, so the A3 e-tron’s battery pack might demand they fill their fuel tanks every three months, instead of once a week.
Indeed, even on the European NEDC combined fuel consumption cycle, the A3 e-tron uses just 1.5L/100km and emits only 35g/km of CO2. But Audi engineers insist that in real-world driving, most of the cars will go weeks without spitting a thing out of their tailpipes. (To check these assertions, I did some numbers for two weeks around Italy in the second family car and, had it been the A3 e-tron instead of a VW Polo, its internal combustion engine would never have even started.)
Even with a fuel tank of just 40 litres, Audi insists the A3 e-tron will provide a range of 940km.
It’s not slow, either. Audi reckons on the car punching to 100km/h in 7.6 seconds and that doesn’t feel off the mark at all, certainly not when we launched it onto LA’s downtown streets.
Besides looking dorky, the image issue hybrids have had to combat is that they aren’t quick, like a warm hatch of the Golf GTI style. But this one is.
There is 150kW of total system power and 350Nm ready to torture its front tyres, with the stock Audi 1.4-litre turbo-petrol four backed up by 75kW of electric motor. That means its 110kW and 250Nm of fossil-fueled power has a free-energy back up.
Audi sticks the 34kg electric motor, which delivers 330Nm of torque alone, between the back of the petrol engine and the front of the six-speed dual-clutch transmission. The major effect of that is the transmission doesn’t know which engine’s workload it’s dealing with – it just accepts a bundle of torque and sends it out again, so it’s theoretically a smoother proposition than putting the electric motor anywhere else in the powertrain.
It’s soon clear to us that this is still in heavy development, though. Audi sends us out with an engineer to explain the ins and outs of it (and there are many), and one of the key points he reiterates is that the integration software is the area getting the most attention right now.
“The hardware is there, but we are killing ourselves to get the mapping of everything right,” our nameless boffin admitted.
There weren’t any issues at all in the car’s electric mode. It turns on as a pure electric car, moves off with brilliant assurance as an electric car and then runs convincingly in any traffic we can find.
The torque is ultra strong, with instant response every time we take off from the lights, and it doesn’t often feel an urgent need for petrol power. Unlike standard hybrids, the plug-in A3 lets you stand on the throttle in its full electric mode without the software calling in the combustion cavalry.
Nope, that won’t arrive without your intervention. Unlike the Volkswagen Golf’s upcoming plug-in hybrid solution, the Audi doesn’t let you fiddle around with all manner of bits and pieces in the set-up. Instead, it uses its normal Drive Select system to drop you into pre-programmed modes -- Electric for electric, Sport for sport and Hybrid for hybrid.
It also delivers a hybrid-hold mode, so you can save the car’s electric charge for an area where you might need it more (say, commuting into a city from the countryside).
Where the Golf PHEV offers five different energy recuperation modes under braking or coasting, the Audi has those differences programmed in from the start.
It’s hard to say whether it’s capable of the 50km of range from a full charge that Audi insists, but our numbers after a 20km drive suggest it’s feasible, especially given that we didn’t feather-foot the thing anywhere.
The only issue we found of significance with the A3 e-tron was the jerkiness of the arrival of the petrol motor, especially from very low speeds. We expected it to be smoother in hybrid mode, but it delivered the sort of disjointed head toss we’d been warned about by our engineer. It’s not yet there.
This, he admitted, was a function of Audi trying to eke more economy out of the 1.4-litre engine that already has cylinder deactivation, direct injection and variable valve timing. With the petrol motor joining teams with the electric one, it has 350Nm anywhere, anytime beneath 2250rpm (yes, we know the numbers don’t add up, but that’s a product of different delivery curves and peaks).
It’s a very strong machine at low rpm and when the petrol motor kicks in it’s also very strong at higher revs. So strong, in fact, that this eco machine has an official consumption figure of just 1.5L/100km (even better in the real world) but can handily run with the GTI crowd. It will hit 60km/h in 4.9 seconds on its way to 222km/h (at higher speeds, the petrol motor takes over completely), so it’s no slouch.
It pulls hard every time you ask it to and there are no problems with the two motors competing with each other. In Sport mode, the electric one does all the low-end carrying, before the petrol one jumps in later on. In Hybrid mode, the two change in and out, depending on what’s delivering the best solution (and it’s sometimes surprising that it leans on the electric motor so much to at low speeds).
At 1580kg, it’s considerably heavier than the stock A3 five-door, but it is carrying 125kg worth of lithium-ion batteries (96 cells housed in eight modules, delivering up to 390 volts) and a 35kg electric motor, along with uprated suspension and brakes.
It carries 8.8kW/h of energy (by contrast, the upcoming Lexus GS300h has a nominal figure of 1.3kW/h), so it takes two hours to fully charge from an industrial socket or less than four from a household socket. Audi is still working on wireless charging.
Typically, that size of battery rips chunks out of the luggage capacity, but the A3 e-tron manages 280 litres with the seats up or a whopping 1120 litres with them folded flat.
Crash safety of big-batteried cars has been in the news lately, but the A3 e-tron’s system automatically detaches the electric system from the car’s power supply in any crash big enough to set off an airbag or a seatbelt pretensioner.
It’s convincing, yes, but it won’t be cheap. Depending on your driving habits, you might have to get the calculator out to see how many years you’ll have to drive the e-tron to recoup your initial investment.
But there won’t be another reason not to buy it, because it’s very, very good right now, and it’s not even here yet.
Coasting California in Audi's A3 e-tron Electric Hybrid
The Globe and Mail's Petrina Gentile gets to take the Audi's ready-for-production electric hybrid hatchback up California's famed Pacific Coast Highway.
Globe and Mail/Canada 13 Dec 2013
California’s Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), is a scenic and spectacular road, extending more than 1,000 winding kilometres along most of California’s breathtaking coastline. Clearly, a convertible is the ideal ride for this backdrop.
But beggars can’t be choosers. My ride isn’t a roadster, it’s a hatchback. However, it does fit with California’s green philosophy, where gas-electric hybrid technology is gaining popularity as a means to improving the environment while reducing dependency on oil. And Audi has jumped firmly aboard that bandwagon with its first plug-in hybrid: the 2015 A3 e-tron.
The A3 e-tron is a five-door hatchback with a 75-kilowatt electric motor coupled with a 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder gas engine delivering a combined output of 204 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. An 8.8 kWh lithium-ion battery pack is stored under the rear seat, but it doesn’t eat up valuable passenger or cargo space. There’s ample head- and legroom for rear-seat passengers who are six feet or taller. The hatchback design translates into excellent cargo space, too – 280 litres, which is more than enough for grocery and shopping bags.
Mated to the engine is a six-speed dual-clutch transmission, which is smooth and quiet – unlike the traditional continuously variable transmission often found in hybrids. This one is a refreshing change and a pleasure to drive.
Our route covers a portion of the PCH along Malibu Beach where I secretly wonder which house is used to tape the sitcom Two and a Half Men. Then it heads inland along twisty Mulholland Drive in the Santa Monica Mountains. Travelling uphill, the A3 e-tron doesn’t struggle or feel strained. It’s agile and nimble – unlike like the typically boring granddaddy of hybrids, the Prius.
No, this e-tron is sporty to drive, with serious get-up-and-go. By hybrid standards, off-the-line acceleration is quick, hitting 0-100 km in 7.6 seconds. Behind the wheel, it feels like its gas-powered A3 sedan sibling. You can travel up to 50 kilometres on electric power alone – even at highways speeds – before the four-banger kicks in, extending that range to nearly 940 kilometres. The transition from the gas to electric is seamless.
Parking is a cinch in the compact A3 and three-point turns are a thing of the past. The e-tron’s tight turning radius gets the job done fast.
There are five different driving modes – efficiency, comfort, auto, dynamic and individual – and braking or coasting down hills captures otherwise lost energy to regenerate electricity and recharge the battery. By the time our 100-kilometre route is complete, I have five kilometres of electric range to spare, according to the power meter display in the instrument cluster.
Another dashboard screen displays the energy flow from electricity to gas, the operating range and consumption figures. Fuel consumption is impressive – 53.9 mpg, which converts to a frugal 4.36 litres/100 km. Official fuel economy numbers haven’t been released in Canada yet, but the EU rating is 1.5 litres/100 km.
Recharging the battery is a simple matter of plugging into a standard outlet or the Audi charging wall unit. With the 120-volt outlet, officials say it’ll take seven hours to fully charge; the upgraded 240-volt outlet drops that time significantly to two hours.
The Audi A3 e-tron goes on sale here in early 2015 but Canadian prices aren’t available yet. In Europe, it’ll cost €37,000 ($54,020 Canadian) when it hits the streets in early 2014.
2015 Audi A3 e-tron
Type: Five-door compact luxury hybrid hatchback
Price: Not available
Engine: 1.4-litre turbocharged I-4 + 75-kilowatt electric motor
Horsepower/torque: 204 hp/258 lb-ft
Transmission: Six-speed dual clutch S-tronic automated manual
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): Not available
Alternatives: BMW i3 range extender hatchback, Lexus CT200h, Acura ILX hybrid, Cadillac ELR
Test Driving Audi's First Electric Hybrid
The A3 e-tron offers both performance with 0-100 km/h acceleration of 7.6 seconds while also being capable of driving up to 31 miles in electric-mode.
Metro Magazine 06 Sep 2013
Apart from some fancier bars to the front grille and air intakes, unique pattern alloy wheels and a hidden exhaust pipe, the prototype I’m driving looks rather normal.
Thanks to 148bhp from its 1.4litre turbocharged petrol engine, and another 101bhp from its 75kW electric motor, it’s a sprightly machine, capable of a distinctly un-eco-like 138mph. It will also accelerate to 62mph in 7.6 seconds, compared with the Toyota Prius’s 11.4 seconds, for instance.
This is because of the way the Audi’s two power units blend when required, albeit offering a maximum power output of 203bhp, rather than the 249bhp you might expect, or hope for.
The A3 is a plug-in hybrid you can recharge in two hours from an industrial supply, or four hours from a domestic socket. That gives you a range of about 31 miles, more than the average commute, according to independent surveys and twice what Toyota claims for the plug-in Prius.
Owners who make a lot of short journeys and have recharging facilities will save a fortune at the pumps, and you don’t have to worry about running out of sparks as the petrol engine is ready to drive the car and recharge the batteries if needed. That equals a total range of 580 miles, which is further than from Dover to Dundee.
The electric motor is located, rather cleverly, between the engine’s dual mass flywheel – a gadget to dampen vibration – and a newly developed ‘separating’ clutch. When the petrol engine fires, it is started by the electric motor via the clutch.
Fuel economy on the official combined cycle is 188mpg, mainly because you are using stored battery power. You can choose between three driving modes – sport, efficiency and EV (electric vehicle) – at the touch of a switch.
Driving around the busy streets of Berlin, the car is quick and nimble yet still beats 100mpg, according to the on-board trip computer.
A neat touch on the dashboard is a display saying when the next set of traffic lights is going to change and whether you should slow down or speed up. Acceleration to 60kmh (37.2mph) off the lights took a brisk 4.9 seconds and left most traffic behind.
The ride, however, is too firm, probably because of the springing needed to cope with the heavy batteries, and the electrically assisted steering felt artificial, almost like a computer game.
It’s worth noting that Germany’s extensive natural gas refuelling network has resulted in Audi also developing a g-tron version of the A3. This could come into its own here if Britain’s controversial fracking plans get the go-ahead.
The 1.4litre turbo petrol engine starts on petrol and quickly switches to gas, which is stored in tanks in the spare wheel recess. Total range on the two fuels is 800 miles but the 110bhp engine feels less powerful running on gas.
The car also runs on manufactured synthetic methane, which if made using solar energy or wind power is claimed to have a carbon dioxide output of 20g/km, making it the ‘greenest’ car available in Germany.
Vital statistics: Audi A3 e-tron
Engine: 1395cc four-cylinder turbocharged petrol and 75kW electric motor
Power: 148bhp (petrol), 101bhp (electric)
0-62mph: 7.6 seconds
Top speed: 138mph
Price: £32,500 (est)
Audi A3 e-tron Is Electric with Hint of 'Old School'
Forbes' columnist Todd Woody gets his hands on Audi A3 electric car for short drive around San Francisco.
Forbes/USA 16 Nov 2012
When it comes to electric cars even such futuristic vehicles as Tesla Motors’ Model S retain some anachronistic affects of an earlier automobile age. For instance, Model S drivers can turn on a “creep” function (via a 17-inch touchscreen) that mimics a gasoline-powered car’s tendency to roll forward when you lift your foot off the brake.
But no one goes old school like Audi when it comes to adding a side of fossil-fuel comfort food to electric cars’ nouvelle cuisine. When I got behind the wheel of the Audi A3 e-tron prototype on Wednesday, I searched in vain for the on/off button that typically starts electric cars and hybrids.
Instead there’s a physical key in the “ignition” that you turn to fire up the lithium-ion battery pack. And don’t expect any high-tech touchscreens to get on your inner Captain Picard. We’re talking strictly analog here, including the “fuel” gauges that shows range and battery capacity. In other words, the A3 e-tron pretty much looks like the gasoline-version of the sporty four-door hatchback that’s a favorite among the art director eyeglass-wearing set.
But that doesn’t mean there’s not innovation at work here. The A3 e-tron sports two Sanyo liquid-and-air-cooled battery packs, one under the trunk area and the other in a T-shape under the passenger compartment. That means the battery backs don’t take up cargo space, unlike in the Ford Focus Electric and Honda Fit EV, two other cars converted to electric drive trains from existing production models.
The A3 also boasts two paddles behind the steering wheel that let drivers control the level of regenerative braking that adds charge to the battery. The paddles essentially work like gears, allowing the driver to control de-acceleration.
I took a short drive around the South of Market area in San Francisco in the A3 e-tron Wednesday morning. Like BMW’s ActiveE, a battery-powered 1 Series coupe prototype, the A3 e-tron combines the high-end handling of German-engineered sports sedan with the typically zippy acceleration – and silence – of an electric drive train.
Audi is cagey about whether the prototype will go into production. What the company has said is that a plug-in electric version of the car will go on sale in 2014.
In an e-mail, Jeff Curry, Audi of America’s director of e-mobility, would only say that, “Future Audi models and platforms, such as the one for the A3 e-tron plug-in hybrid, are being designed to incorporate a wide range of alternative power trains from the start.”
Timing – and price and range – will be everything. Next year BMW is set to launch the i3, a purpose-built electric sedan with a range of 80 to 100 miles. (Audi says the prototype A3 electric has a range of 87 miles.)
Expect the two German automakers to compete with affluent green-minded car buyers but the bigger question is whether Tesla can steal them away if, as planned, the Silicon Valley automaker comes out with a cheaper, A3-sized version of the Model S sometime in the next couple of years.
The nascent electric car market may be sputtering along right now but it could soon get quite competitive.
Driving Audi's A3 e-tron Electric Car Prototype
David Undercoffler reports on Audi A3 e-tron electric car test drive.
LA Times 13 Sep 2012
A small slice of Audi's future recently began testing on U.S. roads around the country, but if you look too hard for these prototypes, they'll probably drive right under your nose.
That's because rather than spend precious development dollars on a uniquely-designed body that's more science experiment than it is a practical application, Audi went and hid an all-electric drivetrain under the skin of its well-known A3 hatchback.
Jeff Curry, the head of Audi's electric vehicle strategy in the U.S., brought one of the 17 A3 e-tron prototypes to Santa Monica this week for a few hours of driving.
Sneak a look under the hood and you'll notice the turbocharged four-cylinder gas or diesel motors have been replaced by an electric motor routing about 134 horsepower and 199 pound-feet of torque to the car's front wheels. The motor is powered by a pair of lithium-ion batteries that pack about 26.5 kilowatt-hours' worth of juice, and top-speed is about 90 mph.
Range on this e-tron is around 90 miles in optimal conditions, and Audi says this A3 would get about 102 miles per gallon equivalent (for comparison, Nissan's Leaf gets 99 mpge, while Ford's Focus EV is rated at 105 mpge).
As with many electric cars, the A3's batteries are mounted low for optimal weight distribution. In order to keep the orientation of the traditional A3's cabin intact, one battery is mounted in the center tunnel between the left and right passengers, and another battery is below the load floor in the trunk area. Thus, when you sit in the A3 e-tron, you notice almost no difference between its interior and the interior of the gas-powered model you can buy right now at your local dealer.
The instrument panel has been kept refreshingly simple. The only changes come in the form of the tachometer being replaced by a gauge showing how much power you're drawing from the battery. Meanwhile, the trip computer has been revised to show real-time stats on range and battery life. All told, the cabin's construction and layout is as solid as any other Audi. Nothing about it would indicate this A3 is a hyper-limited prototype.
This is no accident, says Curry.
"We want people to have a really easy entry into plug-in vehicles, Curry said. Not this huge radical step but something that's really easy to integrate into your daily life, so that's why we based it on the A3."
Other changes include paddles on the steering wheel that allow drivers to choose one of four different brake-regeneration modes. As you dial up through the settings, the amount of energy the car captures and uses to recharge the batteries (and therefore, the amount of resistance you encounter when you take your foot off the gas) increases. Finally, there are three driving modes that allow the driver efficient, normal or sporty driving dynamics.
Around Santa Monica's neighborhoods and up PCH into Malibu, the A3 e-tron is similar to other EVs. Acceleration is smooth, if not neck-snapping (three passengers will slow any car down a bit) and it's always quiet, save for the faint whine exhibited by any electric motor. The brakes are nicely balanced and avoid the tendency to grab hard that some regenerative systems are known for.
One appreciable aspect are the selectable regeneration modes. In heavy traffic or around town, you can often avoid using the brakes at all, and instead keep the system in its most aggressive mode. The moment you take your foot off the gas, the car slows down appreciably. If you're traveling down a long hill, you can also slip the transmission into B, which will also kick the regenerative system into this aggro mode.
Handling is Audi-tight, despite this A3 e-tron weighing some 400 pounds more than a gas-powered model (batteries aren't made of cotton, kids). The car's planted feel comes from the battery placement, which also evens out the car's weight distribution to an almost 50-50 balance.
If all this sounds like something you'd be interested in driving, you're a bit out of luck. Unlike pilot programs run by other manufacturers that are testing alternative-fuel technologies like BMW's ActiveE electric cars or Mercedes-Benz's F-Cell hydrogen fuel cell, Audi's e-tron program is only for Audi employees (Curry included; such are the perks when you run a company's EV program).
Curry says this is a deliberate move. "The idea for us is we don't want to use our customers as guinea pigs. We want to do all the testing internally before we put these cars with our customers. That's sort of just a philosophy that's different than some other manufacturers," Curry said.
So what's the point?
"Over the next 18 months we're testing these cars on U.S. roads to understand how they integrate normal driving with American roads and the conditions and situations we typically use and drive here, which are different than in Europe or China or other main markets we'll launch the cars to," said Curry.
This means if you're keen to get your grubby little paws on an electric Audi, you'll have to wait until 2014. That's when an all-new A3 will come to our shores. The car will be available with the traditional gas (and possibly diesel) power plants, but a plug-in hybrid will also be offered. It's that plug-in model that will use what Audi learns about daily EV use through data gleaned from these prototype A3 models.
The 2014 plug-ins will have a four-cylinder, turbocharged engine that's paired with an electric motor and battery. Curry says total range is expected to top 350 miles. Also, in a departure from the A3's history up until this point, 2014 models will be available as a sedan. This is because the continued growth of the A4 has created room at the bottom of Audi's lineup for another sedan.
A full-electric A3 is still under consideration, Curry said.
"We're looking at that. We haven't made any decisions on the full EV. We want to start with the plug-in hybrid, which we think is a good balance between getting EV but then also being able to drive a full range. But you know, for sure, obviously we're testing it in this version, so it's something that could be done," Curry said.
Audi's e-tron program won't be limited to the A3, either. Curry says that later this year, Audi will unveil a limited e-tron production of its R8 supercar.
"That car is ... very, very fast," Curry said with a smile.
It's clear Audi hopes to use that upcoming R8 to dispel the notion that electric cars must operate at the expense of grin-inducing fun (something Tesla's Roadster did quite nicely).
"The whole idea of the e-tron is it's not sort of an eat your vegetables kind of thing, there's a performance aspect to it -- there are some really fun things about driving these vehicles that people aren't tuned in to,"? Curry said.
blog comments powered by Disqus