It’s simply after 5:00 AM, and we’ve ascended previous 14,100 ft as the solar was simply beginning to rise. A becoming second, certainly, as the car that I used to be about to satisfy represents a brand new chapter for an iconic model. In entrance of us, a half dozen Audi e-tron prototypes wearing camouflage with vibrant orange accents greet us. It was no mistake that Audi selected one in every of the most iconic mountains in its historical past to introduce us to its most essential mannequin in a few years. The Audi e-tron represents not solely the way forward for the model but in addition the business as an entire, the automaker’s first try at going head-to-head with Tesla, to not point out different behemoths every sprinting to unveil their newest all-electric fashions.
Bathed in the golden hour mild of the dawn we begin to study our morning at Pikes Peak. These prototypes are a few of the first automobiles to roll off the pre-assembly line in Bratislava. Audi didn’t fly us all the approach to Colorado to only admire the e-tron, although. As an alternative, we might be observers in a descent that may see us drop 6,200 ft down the Pikes Peak Freeway.
The EV monitor report at Pikes Peak has been record-breaking in current months, however in the present day it will be extra of a pleasant competitors amongst the 5 groups, to see how a lot power every might recuperate throughout the journey down. With its variable recuperation system, the e-tron guarantees to be the most effective of the rivals in the EV area. Whereas the automotive general is rated for round 250 miles on a full cost, Audi’s recuperation know-how contributes as much as 30 % of that determine. Our 19-mile downhill drive, in truth, guarantees to feed a lot power again to the battery, that it might cowl near the similar distance once more.
A science lesson at 14,00Zero ft
Our tutor for an impromptu class in electrification was an Audi engineer, Victor, who has been with the automaker since the early 90s, and dealing on car dynamics and drivetrains for many of his profession. Properly-versed in all issues e-tron, he identified that there are lots of new power recuperation strategies being carried out by totally different automakers. All the similar, Audi’s system – and its determination to offer the driver the choice of simply how a lot the power recuperation system is intervening – is a primary.
Simply as you’d hope from a dawn lecture, we kicked off with a high-level physics overview about the regulation of the conservation of power. That claims potential power and kinetic power are each types of mechanical power. Potential power is dependent upon the mass of a “lifted” physique (on this case the Audi e-tron), in addition to on the peak at which it is situated (Pikes Peak, in our particular instance). Potential power is elevated when the mass (m) of the physique is elevated, and when the peak (h) at which the physique is situated is elevated. The power potential = m * g * h, with g – the gravitational pressure – being fixed. Utilizing this formulation, the Audi engineers have been capable of decide that every kilometer downhill ought to convey round a further kilometer of vary.
For those who’ve pushed an electrical car, you’ll be acquainted with the concept of recuperation or regeneration of energy. Successfully, you’re taking mechanical power – the automotive’s personal motion – and changing it again into electrical energy, which you then retailer in the automotive’s battery. There are three types of power concerned: Potential Power, which is decreased by rolling and air resistance; Gross Power, which incorporates conversion losses by electrical motors and auxiliary gear like the infotainment system; and eventually Internet Power, which is the potential for recuperation or the power usable by recuperation. In brief, as you sluggish the automotive – both by lifting your foot off the accelerator or by actively urgent the brake pedal – the electrical motors flip into turbines, feeding the battery.
That’s the simplified model. In the case of the e-tron, Audi is doing an entire lot extra to maximise simply how a lot additional battery energy it may possibly squeeze out of each introduced alternative. The electrical SUV is successfully a recuperation supercomputer on wheels, with a central driver help controller often known as the zFAS tapping into info from the long-range radar and digital camera mounted on the entrance of the e-tron, the MMI navigation system which is aware of your route, and the real-time knowledge from your personal driving fashion.
It’s mixed with a devoted ECU mounted on every of the two electrical motors, one up entrance and one at the rear, together with the digital chassis platform (ECP) and the Built-in Brake System (iBRS). All these acronyms feed the zFAS in order that it may possibly each distribute energy and use the iBRS to regenerate power. Even for those who press the brake pedal, the hydraulic brakes themselves won’t be utilized: the e-tron’s zFAS might determine that it’s getting sufficient slowing friction from the iBRS alone.
Intelligent on numerous ranges
It’s truthful to say that there’s so much happening behind the scenes. Sensibly, although, Audi isn’t going to bombard e-tron house owners with math or physics. As an alternative, the paddle shifters will change between the three totally different recuperation modes.
Since these prototypes aren’t prepared for anyone outdoors Audi to drive but, we had iPads hooked as much as the e-tron’s computer systems in order that we might see all the actions the numerous methods have been performing in real-time. What degree Victor had chosen, what number of occasions he had pressed the hydraulic brake, and the way typically the electrical motor regeneration was used as an alternative, together with the quantity of torque being generated at every axle. It was an EV data-lovers paradise, actually: car velocity, distance coated, miles descended, and the battery cost degree, in addition to the supply of the battery cost, whether or not coasting recuperation or hydraulic brake recuperation.
Degree Zero, or “coasting,” sees the e-tron coast if you raise your foot off the accelerator, with no further drag torque from the motors. The SUV continues to roll ahead, with no electrical energy flowing to or from the electrical motors. Victor relied on Degree Zero on the flatter elements of the route, to assist keep our momentum till we might attain the steeper sections of the street once more.
Degree 1, or “balanced,” guarantees minimal deceleration. Lastly, Degree 2, or “strong,” delivers excessive deceleration. Carry your proper foot, and the electrical motors begin producing electrical energy together with brake torque, slowing the automotive down. Each of those ranges can dramatically scale back your momentum, and so you possibly can decelerate and speed up simply utilizing the accelerator pedal. That’s what’s usually recognized in the EV world as one-pedal driving.
The objective is to maximise the potential outputs from the two motors, with out resorting to the hydraulic brakes. These sometimes sluggish the e-tron aggressively, however at the value of effectivity. As a helpful side-effect whenever you’re descending one thing like Pikes Peak, it additionally helps hold the brakes cooler. At the midway level, the brake rotor temperature was at 48-degrees, whereas the pavement was barely decrease at 40-degrees. The Park Ranger was shocked by how cool the brakes have been, in comparison with what you’d anticipate from a standard automotive.
With Degree 2 delivering most returns on recuperation, you may marvel why Audi wouldn’t simply make that the default. First off, if you’re driving at underneath 6 mph there’s merely not sufficient resistance in the electrical motors to generate energy, so the hydraulic brakes activate to proceed the power recuperation. In the meantime, for those who’re too aggressive with Degree 2, you may truly end up having to making use of some throttle to compensate for the lack of momentum.
Don’t assume, simply drive
Not each drive will probably be a Pikes Peak journey, and also you won’t need to take into consideration which recuperation mode you’re set to. As you’d anticipate, there’s additionally an automated coasting recuperation choice, which faucets into the similar predictive effectivity help system we’ve seen earlier Audi automobiles and SUVs use to maximise mild-hybrid efficiency. Combining your upcoming route from the MMI navigation system, together with the long-range radar and entrance digital camera, it could actually regulate brake recuperation on-the-fly between electrical and hydraulic, relying on the street forward and what visitors you may be following.
In auto mode, it’s right down to the e-tron to determine what degree to set every thing at. You’ll nonetheless be capable of manually change between ranges, although, by tapping considered one of the paddles. Like an automated transmission briefly nudged into guide mode, the e-tron will ultimately revert again to dealing with issues itself, on this case once you subsequent faucet the accelerator.
What was most fascinating factor to me was the how the e-tron drive system makes an attempt to virtualize the basic quattro system. Although the two motors are solely related by way of wires, with no bodily hyperlink between them as in a standard all-wheel drive setup, they’re nonetheless capable of obtain comparable outcomes in relation to dealing with and the Audi “feel” on the street.
Relating to electrical deceleration, the system makes use of a quattro recuperation perform developed by Audi’s personal engineers, to make particular person selections as to which axle contributes to the recuperation and to what extent. The drive management unit calculates the splendid distribution of the recuperation torque to each electrical motors inside a fraction of a second, based mostly on elements like velocity, car angle, steering angle, and the driver’s different inputs. Beneath most driving conditions, the rear electrical motor is lively because it’s the bigger of the two and the most effective.
It’s all similar to how the mechanical quattro extremely system works: the second axle at the entrance is solely activated predictively, based mostly on all the info that is being delivered to the controller, when the street circumstances are anticipated to demand the additional traction. With the e-tron, this entrance motor activation occurs if the driver calls for extra braking energy than the rear electrical motor can provide. It kicks in even earlier than extreme slip can happen, whether or not that be due to winter circumstances like snow or ice, or simply since you took a nook too quick.
Whereas EVs have been as soon as related primarily with financial system, the efficiency potential of electrical motors has been completely demonstrated in recent times. The e-tron shall be no totally different. Collectively, the electrical motors ship a complete of 265 kW – or round 355 horsepower – and develop greater than 413 lb-ft of torque. They’re capable of ship peak efficiency for as much as 60 seconds at a time, permitting the Audi to speed up from a standstill to the 124 mph prime velocity a number of occasions consecutively, with out output losses.
Nudge the shifter from D to S, in the meantime, and jam your foot down on the accelerator, and you end up in increase mode. That unlocks 300 kW of system output, or over 400 horsepower, and virtually 490 lb-ft of torque. Increase mode is solely obtainable for a most of eight seconds at a time, nevertheless it’s sufficient to ship the e-tron from Zero-60 in properly beneath six seconds.
Audi isn’t planning on stopping there. Though torque vectoring isn’t attainable on this present, two motor configuration, the automaker plans to ultimately embrace two smaller rear electrical motors in future fashions with upgraded variations of the electrical quattro system. That may imply extra exact electrical drive delivered to every of the rear wheels, and an much more dynamic driving expertise.
A constant Vorsprung durch Technik
An EV which may rocket to its prime velocity as soon as is enjoyable, however hardly sensible. For the e-tron to compete, its efficiency wants to return with consistency, and meaning sustaining all of the electrical techniques at a gentle temperature. Audi’s thermal administration system is comprised of 4 circuits that may be related as required, heating and cooling not solely the inside and the battery, however ensuring the electrical motors – together with their rotors – are stored cool, along with the energy electronics, and the charger.
Even the common brakes aren’t what you’d discover on some other Audi automotive. In reality, the e-tron’s electrohydraulically built-in brake management system is a primary in a collection manufacturing car with electrical drive. Tipping the scales at underneath 13 kilos, or round 30-percent lighter than a standard brake system, it makes use of a displacement piston into which brake fluid could be quickly injected.
The brake management unit detects how a lot pressure the driver is making use of to the brake pedal, and calculates simply how a lot braking torque is required, inside milliseconds. If recuperation torque alone gained’t be sufficient, an electrical spindle drive deploys the displacement piston in the brake hydraulics. It’s compact, nevertheless it’s quick and super-efficient. Certainly, in an automated emergency braking state of affairs, Audi says it takes simply 150 milliseconds between the initiation of the brake software and the presence of most brake strain between the pads and the disks. Complete braking distance is lowered by as much as 20-percent, in comparison with a standard brake system.
As a helpful side-effect, there’s much less brake upkeep concerned, too. Since the e-tron defaults to recuperation braking as a lot as it could actually, the brake pads get used so much much less, extending time between their alternative. The asynchronous electrical motors, in the meantime, are light-weight because of their aluminum rotors, use no uncommon earth parts, and in addition demand little in the means of upkeep.
Tech beneath the hood: Vary on the street
There’s lots of tech, I do know. However at the finish of our drive down Pikes Peak, the core numbers have been spectacular. It took us 1 hour and 21 minutes to cowl 18 miles, together with a number of stops for pictures, with an elevation change of 6,358 ft. At the prime, the power obtainable was 52.050 kWh. By the time we reached the backside, that saved power had risen to 59.100 kWh.
Alongside these 18 miles, the hydraulic brake was used 7 occasions, principally for our stops, whereas Zero.769 kWh was used for acceleration. Coasting recuperation returned 7.851 kWh, and brake recuperation was 2.740 kWh, for a grand complete of 10.591 kWh recouped. The very best quantity generated for the day was 12.006 kWh with 10.189 kWk of that generated by way of recuperation alone. This can be an uncommon drive expertise for any EV to face, however make no mistake, these are astonishingly good numbers popping out of the e-tron.
Pikes Peak behind us, we have been capable of expertise the e-tron whereas driving round Colorado Springs and had our first style of increase mode. As you in all probability might have guessed, the e-tron is extremely quiet, with Audi’s engineers even working with their tire suppliers to construct specific rubber with material inner-liners to scale back street noise. Even in pre-production type, the inside match & end was unimaginable, one thing matched by the exterior the place not a single physique panel I might see was out of alignment.
We’re three years, give or take, from Audi pulling the covers off the first e-tron idea at IAA. Again then, I stood taking a look at the electrical idea, considering that the majority of the know-how would by no means switch to a manufacturing automotive. I – and loads of others who doubted Audi’s intent on the e-tron challenge – have been proved incorrect.
No, the elaborate shifting physique panels of the first idea could also be lacking, however that’s right down to a extra streamlined design strategy rendering them pointless. The cameras as an alternative of aspect mirrors have made it to manufacturing – albeit solely outdoors of the US for now – and the full-touch middle stack and Digital Cockpit at the moment are already out there in the newest A6, A7, and A8. Even the e-tron idea’s OLED lights have made their approach to the rear of the TT RS. It’s all the time spectacular to see an idea translate from an auto present to the sellers’ lot, whereas concurrently sustaining most of the know-how that made it such a hanging idea.
Mockingly, the message Audi hoped we’d take away from this Pikes Peak expertise is somewhat totally different: that Victor and his colleagues got down to construct an electrical car that you simply didn’t want to fret about, and which drives like each different Audi on the street at this time. All the effort they went to was to ensure you don’t have to change your way of life and different behaviors, merely since you’re driving an EV.
Based mostly on my first impressions, I’m fairly assured that the e-tron hits that benchmark. And, although a mountain journey could also be a extra memorable method to check a brand new electrical drivetrain, this SUV ought to be simply as succesful in additional mundane settings, with regeneration even in very heavy city visitors. Hundreds of hours of driving, all throughout the globe, has seen comparable prototypes put by means of their paces, the e-tron steadily evolving to mirror as many use-cases as attainable. By the time we drive the remaining manufacturing 2020 Audi e-tron this fall, we’ll know simply how properly they succeeded.