Handling the rough
The Audi e-tron demonstrates its all-electric quattro and supreme handling characteristics in tough, Saharan conditions.
15 October, 2018
With a new generation of all-electric drive at Audi comes a new generation of the brand’s famous quattro all-wheel drive. This all-electric system, coupled with a versatile suspension and the e-tron prototype’s low centre of gravity, make for vehicle dynamics and handling that deliver a scintillating driving experience regardless of the conditions – as demonstrated all over the globe in some very extreme conditions.
Audi has never been afraid to go to extremes to demonstrate its technology at work, and over the years, Audi quattro has been at the centre of some of the most compelling demonstrations in the automotive world. Driving up a ski jump to demonstrate the extraordinary grip is impossible to forget, but Audi was about as far away from snow as it’s possible to get to show the all-electric quattro at work.
The dried-out salt lake on the edge of the Kalahari Desert in Namibia is two kilometres by nearly two and a half kilometres of fine-grained gravel on top of the hard packed surface – perfect conditions to experience the Audi e-tron prototype in a controlled drift and get a feel for its lightning-fast acceleration and high traction. This is possible thanks to the electric all-wheel drive and numerous suspension systems that are intelligently interconnected, most notably the Electronic Stabilisation Control (ESC), the Audi drive select dynamic handling system and the standard air suspension.
Audi has never been afraid to go to extremes to demonstrate its technology at work
The electric quattro combines the efficiency of a single-axle drive with the driving dynamics and traction of an all-wheel drive
In rough rough terrain, with the push of a button, the Audi e-tron prototype can be raised by 50mm for greater ground clearance, while the ESC optimises the traction and brake control and increases the effect of the electronic differential lock for optimum power transfer and propulsive power.
The two electric motors provide the ideal power source for the high-precision, ultrafast electric quattro. In boost mode they provide up to 300kW and a maximum 664Nm of torque. The thermal management allows the performance to be reproduced even if the powertrain components are subjected to high loads, resulting in outstanding dynamic handling.
The electric quattro combines the efficiency of a single-axle drive with the driving dynamics and traction of an all-wheel drive. It ensures the continuous and variable regulation of the ideal distribution of drive torque between the front and rear axles.
Faster than conventional quattro technology, the system takes just 30 milliseconds from detecting the driving situation and the torque from the electric motors kicking in. This is due to the fact that in the electric all-wheel drive, a mechanical clutch is not engaged but electricity is simply distributed, meaning that even with sudden changes in the coefficients of friction and extreme driving situations the full quattro performance is guaranteed.
The key to the electric all-wheel drive is the intelligent networking of numerous control systems. The central suspension control unit integrates both the handling controller of the quattro drive and the wheel-selective torque control for the first time.
If understeer is detected during spirited driving, it gently brakes the inside wheels, which are under a reduced load, directing the torque to the outside. In addition, an innovative traction control system provides for high traction and stability. Wheel slip is controlled directly at the power electronics of the electric motors, 50 times faster than before and even more precisely matched to the driving situation. For the driver, this is particularly noticeable in combination with the four-stage function modes of the Electronic Stabilisation Control (ESC).
In addition to the ESC, the characteristics of the Audi e-tron prototype can also be adapted to various types of terrain using the standard dynamic handling system. Seven profiles are available depending on the driving situation, road conditions or personal requirements. Besides the drive system characteristic and steering boost, Audi drive select also influences the standard adaptive air suspension with controlled dampers. On the highway, the body is lowered by as much as 26mm, improving stability and aerodynamics, while offroad it can lift the body by 50mm.
The e-tron prototype is also aided in the handling department by the positioning of the powertrain components. With the battery system located under the passenger compartment and between the axles, its delivers a low centre of gravity in general and axle load distribution perfectly balanced at almost 50:50. Compared to a conventional SUV, the all-electric model offers 45 percent higher torsional rigidity, the basis for precise handling and acoustic comfort.
With this impressive arsenal of automotive technology and design working in union, the Namibian salt flats presented no problems at all, but the perfect place for some spirited driving and to experience the Audi e-tron prototype in some tough, but beautiful surrounds.
With the battery system located under the passenger compartment and between the axles, its delivers a low centre of gravity in general and axle load distribution perfectly balanced at almost 50:50
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