It seemed like a good idea at first. A four motor all electric supercar with outstanding performance but no tailpipe emissions? Voila! Say hello to the Audi R8 e-Tron. The first concept version appeared at the 2009 Frankfurt auto show, where it created tremendous buzz. Remember, this was before Tesla became a household word and electric cars that didn’t ferry golfers around the links were still a novel idea.
In 2010, Audi’s R&D chief Michael Dick drove a a prototype of the car for a few laps of the Le Mans racing circuit but then nothing more was heard about it until 2 year later. That’s when Wolfgang Dürheimer, Dick’s successor, put the whole project on hold. Once again, nothing further was heard about the car until Audi’s superstar engineer Ulrich Hackenburg breathed new life into the program. That’s when the decision was made to make the car a version of the second generation Audi R8.
Hackenburg, it should be noted, disappeared without a trace from Audi and Volkswagen shortly after the VW diesel cheating scandal broke 13 months ago. Audi has always been the place where r&d took place for Volkswagen. The diesel cheating software most likely found its way to VW via Audi according to all reports. Hackenburg was the senior engineer at Audi and then he wasn’t. There has not been a whisper of his name since the scandal began.
Although the R8 e-Tron was back on track, interested buyers could find not trace of it on the company website. Dealers referred all inquiries to Audi headquarters. The car was priced at €1,000,000, assuming you could find out who to send your check to. How many were actually built? Less than 100 seems to be the best information anyone can find. “We could have built more than we did,” said an Audi representative, without saying how many actually were built.
The R8 e-tron was supposed to have 4 electric motors, one for each wheel. That would have made it a match for the equally ill fated Mercedes SLS AMG Coupé Electric Drive. But the complex 4 motor system was abandoned during development. Instead, the few production cars made had two electric motors driving the rear wheels only. The regular R8 features Audi’s iconic Quattro all wheel drive.
The R8 e-Tron is a victim of the rapid changes in electric car technology that have taken place over the past 7 years. Today, electric cars with 4 motors are still far from the norm. Only the Rimac Concept One qualifies for that honor and there are only 2 of those in existence. Audi has given up on the idea of an all electric halo sports car. Instead, it says its Q6 electric SUV with 300 miles of range is supposed to go into production sometime in 2018. In the meantime it is stuck with only the A3 Sportback e-Tron with its minimal range to hang its electric car hat on.
Audi may get around to making electric car eventually and they may even be fairly good automobiles once they get here. But like its fellow German automakers, Audi will have spotted Tesla a good 5 year lead by time their electric cars find their way into showrooms. Some think the proven ability of traditional automakers to pump out millions of cars once they set their mind to it will cancel out that advantage. “We’ll see,” said the Zen master.
Source: Car and Driver