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On-Again, Off-Again Audi R8 e-tron Comes Back With a Vengance

Bests Tesla Model S in range, though not in acceleration.

Too much weight and cost and too little range sent Audi back to the drawing board, and its engineers came up with its own, new high-voltage battery to finally make the all-electric R8 e-tron a reality. It will be available for order (at least in Europe) beginning this year. The all-new, second-generation Audi R8 supercar (pictured) makes its debut next week at the Geneva auto show.

Range on the R8 e-tron will be 450 kilometers, or 279.6 miles, which tops the Tesla Model S by 9.6 miles (Audi's own press release translates the kilometers into miles precisely, rather than rounding up to 280). The electric-powered Audi will do 0-62 mph in 3.9 seconds and top out at an electronically restricted 130.5 mph.

Tesla's 85-kWh Model S P85D sedan is still quicker. With a published 0-60 mph time of 3.2 seconds, it's about half a second quicker in the sprint, accounting for the fact that the European 0-100 kp/h time requires the extra two miles per hour.

The Audi R8 e-tron 2.0, as the Ingolstadt automaker calls it, uses a large, T-shaped battery pack integrated into the center tunnel with the cross at the top of the "T" positioned behind the two seats, contributing to a low center of gravity. Audi says it will produce the batteries itself, using "a newly developed lithium-ion technology" designed specifically for the sports car.

Compared with e-tron 1.0 technology that Audi has displayed in concept form at auto shows beginning in 2009, e-tron 2.0's battery capacity has grown from 49 killowatt-hours to about 92 kWh, "without changing the package." The 279.6-mile range is up from just 133.6 miles, thanks to a density increase from 84 Watt-hours per kilogram to 154 Watt-hours per kilogram.

Audi says the R8 e-tron makes 340 kWh and 678.6 lb-ft of torque, each number twice the capability of version 1.0.

The e-tron will use the on-board Combined Charging System, for direct- or alternating-current charges. Audi says this makes it possible to charge the R8 fully in less than two hours. The car achieves high-energy recuperation rates because of its electromechanical brake system and intelligent energy management, and targeted torque vectoring will aid handling.

The new R8 uses the Lamborghini Huracan platform, with extensive use of aluminum and carbon fiber-reinforced plastic. The rear-section module that forms the luggage compartment is made of corrugated CFRP in order to better absorb a rear-end impact. While Audi hasn't provided the weight estimate for the e-tron, the standard mid-engine V-10-powered R8 has a dry weight of 3,206 pounds, which is probably more like 3,400 pounds with fluids, as typically measured in the U.S.

Audi says "targeted" modifications to the R8 e-tron's body shell and wheels keep the car's drag coefficient down to 0.28.

"Audi uses the electrical high-performance sports car primarily as a mobile high-tech laboratory," the company says in its press release. "Accordingly, the findings from the R8 e-tron help in creating a vehicle with a sedan character."

European bureau chief Georg Kacher reported on the Audi R20 project, an electric hyper-car (AUTOMOBILE, April 2013). The project was scrubbed shortly after that issue appeared. Just before the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2013, Audi sacked its chief, Wolfgang Durheimer, who had put the entire e-tron project on-hold, and replaced him with longtime Volkswagen and Audi executive Ulrich Hackenberg, who quickly got the project back on track.

"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 at the North American International Auto Show in January 2014. "The original concept was based on [version 1.0's] battery modules. We've now taken the step to use a different kind of battery."