Previously thought to be shelved because of weight and cost concerns, Audi will reportedly revitalize the all-electric R8 e-tron supercar project. News of the EV supercar’s resurrected development surfaced at the 2014 Detroit auto show, following development chief Ulrich Hackenberg’s presentation introducing the plug-in hybrid Audi Allroad Shooting Brake concept.
“I had a deeper look into the technology and found the problems were the range and the cost, so we are currently working on optimizing those.” Hackenberg told Auto Express of the Audi R8 e-tron. “The original concept was based on battery modules, we’ve now taken the step to use a different type of battery.”
The most recent Audi R8 e-tron concept had a dual electric-motor powertrain capable of 376 hp and 605 lb-ft of torque, and used a 49-kWh lithium-ion battery pack for energy storage. Range was estimated at 134 miles on a fully-charged battery, and a 0-62 mph sprint was possible in about 4.6 seconds with a top speed limited at 124 mph. During testing on the Nürburgring track in 2012, the Audi R8 e-tron recorded an 8:26 lap time, while a modified Vmax version with a 155-mph top speed finished the course in 8:09.
It makes sense for Audi to keep a horse in the electrified supercar race, which includes the BMW i8, Ferrari LaFerrari, McLaren P1, Porsche 918 Spyder, and forthcoming Acura NSX hybrids. As a flagship supercar, the R8 e-tron could have an important role to play as a representative of Audi’s technological and performance development. According to Auto Express, Hackenberg is in communication with the Audi board about the R8 e-tron project’s feasibility and potential as a “tech carrier for other models.”
“I think electric drive has a big future,” he continued. “With battery tech now it is vital to have plug-in hybrids, but as batteries improve we will move more towards all-electric."
The Audi A3 Sportback e-tron, a plug-in hybrid powered by a 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder paired with a 101-hp electric motor, will arrive in the U.S. in early 2015, meaning we could see the e-tron nameplate appearing at the very top and very bottom of Audi’s model lineup. When the Audi R8 e-tron would hit U.S. shores is still unclear, but we do know that the Audi R8 will be redesigned for 2015, and that the existing powertrain layout is adaptable to the updated R8.