Audi is launching its first electric car, the A3 e-tron, on a trial basis in four markets across the country. The Audi A3 A3 e-tron pilot program will be open to drivers in San Francisco and Los Angeles, California; Washington, D.C.; and Denver, Colorado.
The latest car to bear the e-tron name is based on the current Audi A3 hatchback, although its traditional drivetrain has been swapped for an electric motor producing 114 hp and 199 lb-ft of torque. Power is stored in a 26-kWh lithium-ion battery, enabling a driving range of about 90 miles per charge. Performance has been slightly comprised by the switch to electric propulsion; the electric Audi A3 is said to reach 62 mph in 11.2 seconds and manage a top speed of just 90 mph.
It's important to note that the e-tron is based on the current generation of the Audi A3, not the new version that has been leaked several times, and will make its production debut at the Geneva Motor Show. That said, it will give Audi a bit of real-world EV testing in North America. A similar program exists in Germany, albeit with electric-powered versions of the smaller Audi A1 hatchback.
The year-long trial program will allow engineers to monitor the performance of the electric Audi A3 in real-world conditions before launching an electric car on a broader basis. (BMW took a similar approach with trial programs for the Mini E and ActiveE cars.) "We will integrate the data generated from this program into the launch of a range of Audi e-tron models for American drivers," explains Audi sustainability strategy lead Jeff Curry.
Audi plans to launch a variety of electric, as well as hybrid and plug-in hybrid, models over the coming years. Research from the A3 e-tron will inform the design and production of those models. They likely include an electric or hybrid sports car, as well as an all-electric version of the Audi A1.
"Audi is committed to refining Audi e-tron technology," said Audi of America president Johan de Nysschen. "There will be e-tron plug-in vehicle products exhibiting all of the performance and design attributes Audi drivers have come to expect."