The Audi e-tron prototype has been subjected to a range of extremes before its series production launch this year.
13 August, 2018
The series production launch of Audi’s first purely electric vehicle is fast approaching, but the work on the Audi e-tron prototype and the exhaustive testing of all types has seen the vehicles subjected to the harshest conditions the planet has to offer for months.
To ensure that the e-tron prototype will operative at peak efficiency in all real world conditions, it is necessary to take things to extremes – say, –20° to –25°, just to be sure.
As soon as the temperatures sink into minus figures, Lapland transforms each year into a hotspot for vehicle testing. This past European winter, prototypes of the first purely electric series model of the brand with the four rings took their places on the Audi test site in the frozen landscape north of Sweden to prove their mettle.
This is a well practiced operation for Audi, with a constant stream of new models ‘put out in the cold’ so the testers can get the best from each new model.
The optimum preparation of the tracks on snow and ice is an exacting job carried out by experts in their field. One of these experts, Lenny, provides an insight into just what it takes to prepare the frozen lakes for their next ‘new visitor’.
it is necessary to take things to extremes – say, –20° to –25°, just to be sure
In the depths of winter, the ice has a thickness of around 90 centimetres which is very stable and carries vehicles of up to 25 tonnes
Lenny grew up in a small town near the test site and knows the area well. At 16, he began devoting himself to preparing the tracks on the test site. Year after year, Lenny and the rest of the team, with the help of GPS devices, ensure that exactly the same course paths are developed, and that they are always optimally prepared. A job that keeps the team busy around the clock in the winter, with the employees available day and night in shifts.
The test site is located in northern Sweden where winter temperatures of –25° during the day are not uncommon.
“Since we are dependent on the weather, we cannot define the start of the season exactly, but we usually start in November with the preparation of the tracks on the lake,” says Lenny
“We measure the thickness of the ice through holes or using special radar measuring devices.”
In the depths of winter, the ice has a thickness of around 90 centimetres which is very stable and carries vehicles of up to 25 tonnes. The value for when the test drives are possible on the ice varies, but are checked several times per week with safety the top priority.
The best and most stable ice is formed when there are very cold temperatures and no snowfall. If there are temperature fluctuations in this period, then the conditions are perfect, creating compact ice that can withstand a high load. Snow makes things more difficult because it is like an insulating sleeve, which restricts the growth of the ice.
Before the pre-production vehicles are allowed on the ice, the tracks need to be prepared. When the ice is around 10cm thick, the team can start with the preparations for the season. Starting with light equipment such as snowmobiles, then moving up to have heavier vehicles like snowblowers or snow ploughs. These are only used when the ice is appropriately thicker, however. If there is snow on the ice, it must be packed with water so that compact ice is formed and the cold can penetrate the layer.
In the summer months, things are quieter, but work doesn’t shut down entirely. Vehicle tests are also conducted with tracks on land during the off-season, but it is the frozen landscape that really puts the vehicles to the test. And the Audi e-tron prototype – passed with flying colours.
When the ice is around 10cm thick, the team can start with the preparations for the season, starting with light equipment such as snowmobiles
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