In 2007, Volkswagen previewed its New Small Family (NSF) of eco-cars with three concepts, a two-door hatchback, a four-door hatchback, and a microvan. Originally intended for VW, Seat, and Škoda only, NSF is being expanded to include an Audi version, the E1. In fact, the E1 will spearhead a selection of innovative, low-emissions, high-mileage models for Audi. Marketed under the E-line moniker, the new Audis share the same mission as BMW’s Project i vehicles. Audi’s lineup could include up to five different products in various size and price classes. Here is what Audi’s R&D team is currently looking at:
E1, based on the New Small Family (NSF). Audi has been invited to tap the NSF gene pool, but the brand doesn’t want a badge-engineered model, so Audi will get a distinct body and interior. The most likely body style for Audi is a two-door, three-seat commuter hatchback. NSF can accommodate a small gasoline or diesel engine, but an electric vehicle is also considered a mid-term must. Because of its ultracompact dimensions, the two-door is not ideal for a hybrid application.
E2, a sporty mid-engine two-seater. This would be an Audi version of the even more radical VW two-liter car (as in two liters of fuel per 100 km, or 118 mpg). Volkswagen is preparing two closely related, exceptionally frugal halo products that could influence the E2 – the one-liter car (the second coming of the cigar-shaped tandem two-seater first seen in 2002) and the two-liter car (a more conventional design with driver and passenger sitting next to each other). Although the one-liter car is a very small-volume, expensive, high-tech showpiece, the two-liter edition is more practical and more affordable. For minimum aerodynamic drag and optimal packaging, a mid-engine layout is favored, with a pair of 75-hp, 1.2-liter three-cylinder units (an 80-lb-ft direct-injected unit and a 130-lb-ft turbo-diesel) most likely. Electric drive is also possible but may add too much to the price.
E3, the proposed A2 revival. Audi is reviving its aluminum-spaceframe A2 hatchback that was sold in Europe from 1999 to 2005 [By Design, page 16]. The new version “should be bigger inside than the A3 and yet more economical than the upcoming A1,” says a source from product planning. Don’t expect a rehash of the original. He adds, “The car needs to be space-efficient and aerodynamic, but it also must look sportier and more grown-up.” Gasoline and diesel engines, from 1.2 to 1.6 liters, will be joined by a plug-in hybrid. All-wheel drive (with electrically driven rear wheels) will be offered, as will front-wheel drive.
E4, new name and a second chance for the Audi Roadjet. The Roadjet quietly disappeared after its much acclaimed debut at the 2006 Detroit show, but the highly flexible tall-roof concept deserves a second chance as a larger and roomier companion to the E3.
E5, new eco-friendly sports car. We’re talking 2014, so neither the content nor the donor model have been defined. This sporty fuel miser could be based on the A1 or the new mid-engine R-line platform. Even more clearly than other E-line derivatives, the E5 demonstrates that the lightweight architecture works in two directions – toward ambitious environmental goals and in the handling and performance department. Audi’s 2009 centenary celebrations should provide the occasion for our first in-the-flesh glimpse of the E-line, at least in concept car form.
Shortest, Fastest, or Greenest?
By Lawrence Ulrich
We’ve seen navigation systems that help you avoid clogged highways or toll roads. Now, Audi has developed an environmentally friendly nav system that eases the toll on your conscience. The system combines advanced mapping and real-time traffic data, including topographical information and in-car cameras that analyze traffic flow. The system lets drivers choose a route that will produce the least carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, or other pollutants, and when the trip is done, the system displays how much pollution was saved. The unit is one of several green ideas Audi floated at the World Congress for Intelligent Transportation Systems held in New York. Developed with California universities including UC-Berkeley, Audi’s demos included cars that “talk” to traffic lights and help drivers time the greens to boost city mileage by as much as twenty percent. Audi currently has no firm production plans, but if increasingly eco-conscious governments enact carbon-dioxide limits, systems that go beyond traditional emissions controls could help cars sneak under the regulatory bar. It’s not hard to envision a day when cars and drivers will be granted a monthly carbon quota. Those built-in Breathalyzers for serial drunk drivers? For another brand of socially suspect guzzler, they’ll be connected to your exhaust pipe instead.