The march toward a future of electric cars has taken a mild detour, at least for Audi. A new report from Car Magazine suggests that the automaker has halted development of its A2 electric car and the A1 e-tron plug-in hybrid. The decision comes as Audi planned to launch the A2 electric in 2015, and already has been running a test fleet of the A1 e-tron models in Germany.
Audi reportedly decided to cancel the A2 electric program over fears the car wouldn't sell. The hatchback was expected to cost €40,000 (about $49,800), which would make the car a difficult selling proposition. The A2 extremely small, and a struggling European economy would make it hard to convince buyers to spend €40,000 on an electric car that is less than 13 feet long. Audi also has presumably noticed that sales of the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi i-MiEV electrics have been very slow in Europe.
The Audi A2 debuted in concept form at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show. Equipped with a 116-hp electric motor driving the front wheels, and a 31 kWh lithium-ion battery, Audi said the A2 would be able to drive about 124 miles on a charge. A gasoline-powered version of the new A2 is scheduled to go on sale in 2013, and Audi had promised the electric version would debut by 2015. That timing, incidentally, would be key to countering the planned BMW i3 electric city car.
Audi also was said to be considering a gasoline- or diesel-hybrid drivetrain for the A2; the fate of that option is still unclear. The electric version was slated to use composite body panels, thinner glass, and special lightweight air conditioning components to keep weight to a minimum -- probably under 2400 pounds.
Car reports that the A1 e-tron has suffered the same fate. Unveiled at the 2010 Geneva Motor Show, the concept was a plug-in hybrid that used a gasoline rotary engine to help charge its batteries. The lithium-ion battery pack alone gave a driving range of 31 miles, and using the rotary engine would extend that range to 124 miles. It wasn't merely a pie-in-the-sky concept, as Audi built a test fleet of A1 e-trons (pictured, above) to run in Germany last year. Reports suggested the model might go on sale by 2014.
Unfortunately, the e-tron also is unlikely to see the light of day. Audi apparently based its decision to kill the model on dwindling sales for pricey "supermini" cars in Europe, as well as the fact that the development process would be quite involved and expensive. The A1 e-tron had a host of advanced features, including braking-by-wire, an electric climate-control system, and of course the hybrid arrangement that could provide a top speed of 80 mph and an overall average of 124 mpg.
Source: Car Magazine