Audi’s EV Power Race Proves Bigger Still Better in Autos

The triple battery electric roadster is aimed at racing aficionados. It may lack luxury trappings but it shines with state-of-the-art technical specs.

German automaker Audi took the wraps off its high-end electric supercar, the PB18 e-tron, at Pebble Beach Automotive Week in Monterey, Calif. A liquid-cooled solid-state battery with an energy capacity of 95 kWh boasts a range of more than 310 miles on a full charge. The car is designed for charging with a voltage of 800 volts, which means the battery can be fully recharged in about 15 minutes.

The concept can also charge cordlessly via induction with Audi Wireless Charging (AWC). A charging pad with an integral coil is placed on the floor where the car is parked and then connected to the power supply. The alternating magnetic field induces an alternating voltage in the secondary coil fitted in the floor of the car, crossing the air gap. The abbreviated name PB18 e-tron refers both to the Pebble Beach venue for the premiere and to the technological DNA it shares with the Audi racing car R18 e-tron.

A no-frills driving machine, the vehicle eschews weight-adding comfort features. The design includes a driver’s seat and cockpit that can be slid laterally. The vehicle is equally at home on the racetrack or on twisting coastal roads. The car’s center of gravity is located behind the seats and in front of the rear axle, where the battery pack is located. The concept uses three powerful electric motors, one up front and two in the rear. It claims to recover large amounts of energy while on the road. When braking moderately, the electric motors are solely responsible for decelerating the vehicle and hydraulic brakes only come into play for heavy braking.

Mounted in the cockpit is a transparent OLED surface, which can display data from navigation and vehicle electronics. In normal road traffic, the direction arrows and other symbols from the navigation system are in the driver’s field of vision – analogous to a heads-up display.

Among the other competitors in the ultra-high-end market is British automaker Aston Martin, which debuted the Lagonda Vision Concept at this year’s Geneva Motor Show, is an unabashedly high-end luxury vehicle, complete with silk carpets and carbon fiber trim, that is planned for production in 2021. The fully electric car, which the company claims has a 400-mile range, features Level 4 autonomous driving, which means the car can drive itself in all normal circumstances and on all recognizable roads.

Pininfarina, the Italian design firm made famous by Ferrari, is aiming to have its supercar on the market by 2020. It will carry an eye-watering price tag somewhere between $2M and $2.5M. Another competitor is Tesla’s Roadster, an upcoming all-electric four-seater sports car that CEO Elon Musk said will be capable of 0 to 60mph in 1.9 seconds – perhaps a fraction of a second faster than the PFO. Meanwhile, Porsche has unveiled a host of technical specifications on its Taycan electric luxury vehicle, boasting 600 horsepower and a range of about 310 miles.

— Nathan Eddy is a filmmaker and freelance journalist based in Berlin. Follow him on Twitter.

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