Feast your eyes on the Audi PB18 e-tron concept study - a stunning vision of the future.
24 August, 2018
Sleek, futuristic and utterly desirable, the Audi PB18 e-tron concept study, is a tantalising glimpse of what could well be waiting around the automotive corner. Race bred features and performance (think 0 to 100km/h in two seconds), with a fully electric powerplant and design that while unmistakably Audi, takes that design language into what looks like a sparkling future.
Named for the Pebble Beach Automotive Week where it was unveiled today, and paying homage to the Audi R18 e-tron race cars – the Audi PB18 e-tron was created in the new Audi design studio in Malibu, California, and takes the very concept of a future supercar and pushes the boundaries in spectacular fashion.
Measuring 4.53 metres long, two metres wide and 1.15 metres tall, the PB18 e-tron has a wheelbase of 2.70 metres with minimal overhangs. Made from a mix of aluminium, carbon and multi-material composites it weighs in at less than 1550kg, yet still offers storage of up to 470 litres.
In silhouette, it features a gently sloping roof line which is pulled far to the back and features massive C-pillars. An almost vertical rear window – reminiscent of a shooting brake concept – the PB18 is an amalgam of a coupé with the rear of a station wagon.
Made from a mix of aluminium, carbon and multi-material composites it weighs in at less than 1550kg
A pure driver’s car – autonomous aspirations, at least for this futuristic vehicle are not a feature
The familiar hexagon shape of the Singleframe grille dominates the front with large air inlets to the left and right supplying air intake to the brakes and the front electric motor. Wide and flat light units with integrated digital matrix technology and laser high-beam headlights – originally developed for the LeMans R18 race cars – complete the distinctive ‘face’.
The huge muscular wheel arches not only add to the racing design, but house massive 22-inch wheels shod in 275/35 tyres up front and 315/30 on the back with big 19-inch carbon brake discs that do their job in conjunction with an electric brake.
Make no mistake that this vehicle has been designed as a race car with road applications. A pure driver’s car – autonomous aspirations, at least for this futuristic vehicle are not a feature. Indeed, to those working on the project, the concept car was designated ‘Level Zero’ as an explicit way to differentiate it from the Levels 3, 4 and 5 of autonomous driving currently in focus at Audi.
The driver’s seat and cockpit are integrated into an inner monocoque shell that can be slid laterally. When driven solo, the monocoque can be positioned in the centre of the interior as in a monoposto which is the perfect location for the racetrack. This is made possible by the by-wire design of the steering and pedals, meaning that a mechanical connection of the control elements is not needed.
“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 centre,” says Gael Buzyn, Head of the Audi Design Loft in Malibu.
“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.”
Indeed, when the driver’s monocoque is slid into the side position (like a conventional car), there is room for a passenger with an additional seat integrated low above the ground and equipped with a three-point seatbelt.
The Audi PB18 e-tron is designed as a mid-engine sports car with a forward mounted cabin. The car’s centre 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 liquid-cooled solid-state battery used to power the PB18 e-tron has an energy capacity of 95kWh and with full charge provides offers a range of over 500 kilometres in the WLTP cycle. It has been designed for charging with a voltage of 800 volts which means the battery can be fully recharged in about 15 minutes and can also be charged cordlessly via induction with Audi Wireless Charging (AWC).
“We want to offer the driver an experience that is otherwise available only in a racing car like the Audi R18”
Gael Buzyn, Head of the Audi Design Loft in Malibu.
The combined torque of up to 830 newton metres means the PB18 e-tron races from 0 to 100km/h in roughly 2 seconds
Drive comes from 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 150kW to the front axle and 350kW to the rear – for maximum output of 500kW, or with boosting, the driver can temporarily push that up to 570kW. The combined torque of up to 830 newton metres means the PB18 e-tron races from 0 to 100km/h in roughly 2 seconds – a time not unlike that of a current LMP1 prototype.
The idea of separate electric motors on the rear axle offers major advantages for handling, the Torque Control Manager, working with the Electronic Stabilisation Control (ESC), actively distributes power to the wheels of the front and rear axles as needed. Add to that a suspension system developed for LMP1 racing, and you have a car that will handle as if it’s on rails.
But the focus is on not just powerful performance but also maximum efficiency, with large amounts of energy recovered in normal driving.
Although purely a design study at this stage, the Audi PB18 e-tron points to an exciting future, and with Audi’s track record of building series production vehicles based closely on concept cars – the future could be very bright indeed.
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