Audi: Radical Vision for Tomorrow Sports Car

Audi PB18 e-tron | photo Audi AG
Audi PB18 e-tron | pho­to Audi AG

Radical Vision at Monterey.

For the first time, Audi is pre­sent­ing a design and tech­ni­cal con­cept car at Peb­ble Beach Auto­mo­tive Week in Mon­terey, Cal­i­for­nia. The all-elec­tric Audi PB18 e-tron presents a rad­i­cal vision for the high-per­for­mance sports car of tomor­row. Broad and flat, vis­i­bly inspired by the wind tun­nel and the race track, its very pres­ence sig­nals that it is des­tined to push bound­aries. Its con­cept and excit­ing lines were cre­at­ed in the new Audi design stu­dio in Mal­ibu, Cal­i­for­nia – where the brand’s design is con­sis­tent­ly being updat­ed for the future. The tech­ni­cal con­cept of the PB18 e-tron has ben­e­fit­ted from Audi’s many years of win­ning the Le Mans rac­ing series. The experts at Audi Sport GmbH, the high-per­for­mance sub­sidiary of Audi, were respon­si­ble for imple­men­ta­tion. The abbre­vi­at­ed name “PB18 e-tron” refers both to the Peb­ble Beach venue for the pre­miere and to the tech­no­log­i­cal DNA it shares with the suc­cess­ful LMP1 rac­ing car Audi R18 e-tron.

Consistently focused concepts for use

At first sight, the Audi PB18 e-tron shows its kin­ship with anoth­er spec­tac­u­lar con­cept car from the brand – the Audi Aicon from 2017. This holds true not only for char­ac­ter­is­tic design ele­ments like the side win­dows that angle inwards and the extreme­ly extend­ed wheel arch­es. The two con­cept cars from 2017 and 2018 also share their elec­tric dri­ve with sol­id-state bat­tery as ener­gy stor­age.

But their respec­tive, con­sis­tent­ly focused con­cepts for use make them polar oppo­sites. While the Aicon was designed as a ful­ly auto­mat­ed, long-dis­tance lux­u­ry vehi­cle – a busi­ness jet for the road – the cre­ators of the PB18 e-tron designed it as a rad­i­cal dri­ving machine for the race­track and road. Dynam­ics and emo­tion top its list of spec­i­fi­ca­tions. Para­me­ters like propul­sive pow­er, lat­er­al accel­er­a­tion and per­fect ergonom­ics deter­mine each detail. And dri­ver-ori­en­ta­tion is in a com­plete­ly new dimen­sion.

The inter­nal work­ing title at Audi for the show­car project was “Lev­el Zero” – as an explic­it way to dif­fer­en­ti­ate it from the Lev­els 3, 4 and 5 of autonomous dri­ving cur­rent­ly in focus at Audi. In the Audi PB18 e-tron, the dri­ver is the one steer­ing and step­ping on the gas or brake ped­al. There are there­fore no com­plex sys­tems for pilot­ed dri­ving on board and no com­fort fea­tures to add weight. In their place are a driver’s seat and cock­pit that are inte­grat­ed into an inner mono­coque shell that can be slid lat­er­al­ly. When dri­ven solo, the mono­coque can be posi­tioned in the cen­ter of the inte­ri­or as in a mono­pos­to – the per­fect loca­tion for the race­track. This is made pos­si­ble not least by the by-wire design of the steer­ing and ped­als; a mechan­i­cal con­nec­tion of the con­trol ele­ments is not need­ed.

Gael Buzyn is Head of the Audi Design Loft in Mal­ibu – where the Audi PB18 e-tron was born. He describes the most impor­tant item in the spec­i­fi­ca­tions: “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.”

When the driver’s mono­coque is slid into the side posi­tion, from where the PB18 e-tron can be steered in every­day dri­ving like a con­ven­tion­al road vehi­cle, there is room for a pas­sen­ger. An addi­tion­al seat can be accessed on the oth­er side, inte­grat­ed low above the ground and equipped with a three-point seat­belt. The dri­ver also ben­e­fits when get­ting in and out from the eas­i­ly acces­si­ble out­side posi­tion of the mono­coque, which can be moved when the door is open up to the sill.

Audi PB18 e-tron | photo Audi AG
Audi PB18 e-tron | pho­to Audi AG

Inspiration drawn from motorsport

The Audi PB18 e-tron pack­age fol­lows the tra­di­tion­al archi­tec­ture of a mid-engine sports car with a cab that is posi­tioned far for­ward. The car’s 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.

A mix of alu­minum, car­bon and mul­ti-mate­r­i­al com­pos­ites ensures the body of the Audi PB18 e-tron has a low basic weight. Not least thanks to the inno­v­a­tive and com­par­a­tive­ly light sol­id-state bat­tery, a total weight of less than 1,550 kg (3,417.2 lb) can be expect­ed.

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). These dimen­sions alone speak of a clas­si­cal sports car. The wheel­base is 2.70 meters (8.9 ft) and the over­hangs are com­pact. Viewed from the side, the eye is drawn to the gen­tly slop­ing roof line which is pulled far to the back and fea­tures mas­sive C-pil­lars. Togeth­er with the large and almost ver­ti­cal rear win­dow, this design is rem­i­nis­cent of a shoot­ing brake con­cept – the syn­the­sis of a coupé with the rear of a sta­tion wag­on. The result is not only a dis­tinc­tive sil­hou­ette but also, with 470 liters (16.6 cubic ft), a clear bonus in terms of car­go space – usu­al­ly a deficit in sports cars. An exclu­sive lug­gage set cus­tomized to fit the car­go space helps to make opti­mum use of the lug­gage com­part­ment – even if the lug­gage in this car fre­quent­ly con­sists of noth­ing but a hel­met and rac­ing over­all.

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.

Interior, Audi PB18 e-tron | photo Audi AG
Inte­ri­or, Audi PB18 e-tron | pho­to Audi AG
Interior, Audi PB18 e-tron | photo Audi AG
Inte­ri­or, Audi PB18 e-tron | pho­to Audi AG

Emotion without emissions: 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.

High-tech from the LMP1 sport: the suspension

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 PB18 e-tron | photo Audi AG
Audi PB18 e-tron | pho­to Audi AG

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.

A189677 medi­um
Aper­ture: 14Camera: IQ250Caption: Detail­Colour: Cir­cuit grey­Iso: 400Copyright: AUDI AGOri­en­ta­tion: 1
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Joao Lamares

Editor in Chief at JLpress News
Fotógrafo profissional desde 1999, colaborou com diversas empresas, agencias de publicidade e gabinetes de imprensa.
Colaborou com o Blog Fashion Heroines como fashion phortographer.
É o fotógrafo oficial da Colorida Art Gallery.
Fundou a JLpress Sport News and Photo em abril de 2016 onde acumula os cargos de Diretor de conteúdos e fotógrafo.
Joao Lamares