The concept, the first presented by Audi at the Pebble Beach Automotive Week in Monterey, presents the brand’s vision for the high-performance sports car of tomorrow.
The PB18 e-tron Concept was designed by the new Audi design studio in Malibu, California, while the technical concepts benefited from Audi’s experience in the Le Mans racing series.
The abbreviated name “PB18 e-tron” refers both to the Pebble Beach venue and to the technological DNA it shares with the successful LMP1 racing car Audi R18 e-tron.
The design evolves the style introduced last year with the Aicon, with which it shares design elements such as the side windows that angle inwards and the extremely extended wheel arches, but also the electric drive with solid-state battery as energy storage.
Differently from the Aicon, conceived as a fully automated, long-distance luxury vehicle – the PB18 e-tron was designed as a radical, fully “manual” driving machine for the racetrack and road.
One of the most distinctive features is the monocoque shell that integrates the driver’s seat and cockpit and that can be slid laterally. When driven solo, the monocoque can be positioned in the center of the interior as in a monoposto.
When the monocoque is slid into the side position, the PB18 e-tron can be driven like a conventional road vehicle, and there is room for a second passenger on an additional seat that can be accessed on the other side, integrated low above the ground and equipped with a three-point seatbelt.
Gael Buzyn, Head of the Audi Design Loft in Malibu, explains: “We want to offer the driver an experience that is otherwise available only in a racing car like the Audi R18. That’s why we developed the interior around the ideal driver’s position in the center. Nevertheless, our aim was to also give the PB18 e-tron a high degree of everyday usability, not just for the driver, but also for a potential passenger.”
The Audi PB18 e-tron package adopts a shooting-brake-like body style combined with an architecture typical of mid-engine sports cars, with a cab that is positioned far forward.
The PB18 e-tron is 4.53 meters long, 2 meters wide and just 1.15 meters tall (14.5 x 6.4 x 4.6 ft), and thanks to the rear end volume it offers 470 liters (16.6 cubic ft) of cargo volume.
The center of gravity is located behind the seats and in front of the rear axle – which benefits the driving dynamics.
This does not involve the engine-transmission unit, as in a car with a conventional drive system, but rather the battery pack.
The body is made of a mix of aluminum, carbon and multi-material composites which helps in keeping the overall weight below 1,550 kg (3,417.2 lb) – including the high capacity battery.
The electric drivetrain is equipped with three motors – one up front and two in the rear, centrally located between the steering knuckles, each directly driving one wheel via half- shafts.
The total output is up to 150 kW to the front axle and 350 kW to the rear, and the max combined torque is up to 830 newton meters (612.2 lb-ft) allows a 0-100 km/h sprint time of just over 2 seconds.
For more details check the press release reported below.
A flat red band of lights extends across the entire width of the rear and underscores the horizontal orientation of the vehicle body.
The cabin, placed on the broad shoulders of the wheel arches, appears almost dainty from the rear. The rear diffuser air outlet has been raised high – another functional feature borrowed from motorsport. The diffuser can be moved downward mechanically to increase downforce. The rear spoiler, which normally is fixed, can be extended rearward for the same purpose.
The widely extended wheel arches located opposite the central cabin are noticeable from every angle. They emphasize the extremely wide track of the PB18 e-tron and thereby illustrate the lateral dynamic potential of the car and the obligatory quattro drive. The large 22-inch wheels, each with eight asymmetrically designed spokes are reminiscent of turbine inlets – together with the air inlets and outlets of the wheel arches, their rotation ensures excellent air supply to the large carbon brake discs.
The front is dominated by the familiar hexagon shape of the Singleframe grille, with an emphatically wide and horizontal cut. The brand logo is placed above at the front of the hood, in the typical Audi sports car style.
Large air inlets to the left and right of the Singleframe supply the necessary cooling air to the brakes and the front electric motor. Wide and flat light units with integrated digital matrix technology and laser high-beam headlights complete the face of the PB18 e-tron.
The laser high-beam headlight with its enormous range is especially emblematic of the transfer of know-how from motorsport: This technology made its debut in the Le Mans R18 racing car, where the maximum light output at speeds above 300 km/h offered a crucial safety advantage at night as well.
The Audi designers have taken a new tack for air flow through the front hood. The hood dips deeply and acts as a lateral bridge running across the nose, connecting the two emphatically accentuated fenders and also doubling as an air deflector. A design that is thoroughly familiar from racing prototypes.
At the same time, this layout offers the driver a unique quality of visibility, and not just on the race track. Looking through the large windshield from the low seating position, the driver sees precisely into the opening of the ventilated hood and onto the road, and can thus perfectly target the course and apex of the curve. Mounted within the field of vision is a transparent OLED surface.
The ideal line of the next curve can be shown on it, for example, precisely controlled with data from navigation and vehicle electronics. In normal road traffic, on the other hand, the direction arrows and other symbols from the navigation system find a perfect place here in the driver’s field of vision, analogous to a head-up display.
The large-format cockpit itself is designed as a freely programmable unit and can be switched between various layouts for the racetrack or the road, depending on the scenario for use.
Three electric motors and quattro drive
The concept uses three powerful electric motors – one up front and two in the rear. The latter are centrally located between the steering knuckles, each directly driving one wheel via half- shafts. They deliver power output of up to 150 kW to the front axle and 350 kW to the rear – the Audi PB18 e-tron is a true quattro, of course. Maximum output is 500 kW, with boosting, the driver can temporarily mobilize up to 570 kW. The combined torque of up to 830 newton meters (612.2 lb-ft) allows acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h (62.1 mph) in scarcely more than 2 seconds – a speed that differs only marginally from that of a current LMP1 prototype.
In normal road traffic, the driver can limit the maximum speed in favor of range. This limitation is easy to deactivate on the racetrack and can be adapted to local conditions.
The focus is on not just powerful performance but also maximum efficiency. While being driven, the Audi PB18 e-tron recovers large amounts of energy: up to moderate braking, the electric motors are solely responsible for decelerating the vehicle. The hydraulic brakes only come into play for heavy braking.
The concept of separate electric motors on the rear axle offers major advantages when it comes to sporty handling. The Torque Control Manager, which works together with the Electronic Stabilization Control (ESC), actively distributes the power to the wheels of the front and rear axles as needed. This torque control provides for maximum dynamics and stability. Thanks to the virtually instantaneous response of the electric motors, the control actions are lightning- quick. The drive concept of the Audi PB18 e-tron adapts perfectly to every situation, whether involving transverse or longitudinal dynamics.
The liquid-cooled solid-state battery has an energy capacity of 95 kWh. A full charge provides for a range of over 500 kilometers (310.7 miles) in the WLTP cycle. The Audi PB18 e-tron is already designed for charging with a voltage of 800 volts. This means the battery can be fully recharged in about 15 minutes.
The Audi PB18 e-tron can also be charged cordlessly via induction with Audi Wireless Charging (AWC). This is done by placing a charging pad with integral coil on the floor where the car is to be parked, and connecting it to the power supply. The alternating magnetic field induces an alternating voltage in the secondary coil fitted in the floor of the car, across the air gap.
The front and rear have independent suspension on lower and upper transverse control arms, and, as commonly found in motor racing, a push-rod system on the front axle and pull-rod system on the rear – in both cases with adaptive magnetic ride shock absorbers. The suspension of the Audi R18 e-tron quattro Le Mans racing car served as the model for the basic architecture.
The wheels measure 22 inches in diameter and are fitted with 275/35 tires in the front and 315/30 in the back. Large carbon brake discs with a 19-inch diameter, in conjunction with the electric brake, safely and steadily decelerate the Audi PB18 e-tron even in tough racetrack conditions.
The path to volume production – electric mobility at Audi
Audi has been developing vehicles with all-electric or hybrid drive since back in the late 1980s. The first production offering of a car combining a combustion engine with an electric motor was the Audi duo from 1997, which occupied the body of an A4 Avant. A landmark technological development for electric cars was the R8 e-tron, which was unveiled at the 2009 Frankfurt Motor Show and in 2012 set a record lap time for an electric car on the North Loop of the Nürburgring.
Audi added a first plug-in hybrid to its range in 2014 in the guise of the 150 kW (204 hp) A3 e-tron – its battery units can be recharged by recuperation and cable, and give it an all- electric range of up to 50 kilometers in the NEDC. The Q7 e-tron made its debut in 2016: It is powered by a 3.0 TDI engine combined with an electric motor, with a combined 275 kW (373 hp) and 700 Nm (516.3 lb-ft) of torque. It accelerates from a standing start to 100 km/h (62.1 mph) in 6.2 seconds and is particularly efficient. In all-electric mode, it has a range of up to 56 kilometers (34.8 miles) while producing zero local emissions. It is also the world’s first plug-in hybrid with a V6 compression ignition engine and quattro drive.
Another concept car unveiled by Audi in 2015 at the Frankfurt Motor Show, was the e-tron quattro concept – the forerunner of the brand’s first all-electric-drive production automobile. As a radically reconfigured SUV it offers a range of more than 400 kilometers (248.5 miles) in the WLTP cycle with the spaciousness and comfort of a typical full-size automobile from Audi. The production version of this groundbreaking e-SUV, named Audi e-tron, will debut in September 2018.
Roadtrip, circuit or piloted city-mobile – a new mobility service
Audi has meanwhile been building a new family of visionary automobiles since 2017 as a preview for the next decade – electrically powered and precisely focused on their respective use scenarios. Cars currently in the market are always conceived as a versatile synthesis between highly conflicting requirement profiles – in practice, this often means compromises must be made. In contrast, the current concept cars will occupy a new, consistent position in an increasingly diversified market. The Audi Aicon long-distance luxury vehicle started things off at the IAA 2017; the PB18 e-tron is now marking another milestone. Additional vehicle concepts, such as those for example for urban traffic, are already being developed and will make their public debut in the coming months.
As part of a premium sharing pool with highly individual models, they will all sharpen the profile of the Audi brand even further in the future – as custom-tailored products and services for highly demanding customers who want to combine mobility, emotion and experience in every situation of their lives. These customers can then decide whether they only want to use the vehicle of their choice temporarily and exchange it for another when needed, or if they would rather purchase it permanently, as today.