The forward scout

The Audi e-tron prototype takes a first look at life Down Under.

In preparation for the introduction of the brand’s first all-electric model in Australia, the Audi e-tron prototype has spent some time in Australia getting a feel for the place.

8 August, 2019

The bright livery of the Audi e-tron prototype has become very familiar since the vehicle's first appearance in Geneva

It’s no secret that Australia is one of the great testing grounds for automotive manufacturers from around the world. Getting it right in Australia, with its extreme and changeable climate, is crucial for vehicle development and it’s not uncommon for a sharp-eyed local to catch sight of a new vehicle in passing.

Late last year, four engineers from Audi headquarters in Ingolstadt, Germany, headed to Australia for just such a mission – testing vehicle systems and infrastructure ahead of a coming vehicle launch in Australia, and one with a distinct difference for the brand.

Their mission formed part of the International testing of the Audi e-tron prototype, the precursor to the Audi e-tron – the brand’s first all-electric series production model. The e-tron prototype vehicle first came to public attention internationally when it was spotted on the streets of Geneva in early 2018, its distinctive livery creating quite a stir with the specially designed e-tron camouflage pattern that has since become well known around the world.

That initial Geneva appearance marked the first public outing for the all-electric SUV and the start of what was to be a ‘world tour’ with a distinct difference. In cities around the globe, the distinctive e-tron prototypes were spotted out and about, as Audi engineers assessed every facet of the performance and functionality – and of course how they worked in the cut and thrust of traffic and in day to day use.

This was far from being a series of glamorous ‘red carpet reveals’ as the fleet of 250 e-tron prototypes also set off on a gruelling trip that saw them complete more than five million kilometres around the world – essentially 125 trips right around the planet.

From scorching deserts where temperatures reached more than +50 degrees Celsius to the freezing wastelands of the Arctic Circle where temperatures plummet to -20 degrees – the e-tron prototypes were rigorously put through their paces to ensure their systems could cope with absolutely anything.

Testing everything from the robustness of the vehicle systems, to the fit and finish of panels, ride, comfort and pure performance. Pushing the limits way past anything that could be thrown at them in daily life to ensure that the series production would live up to expectation and the Audi standard.

From tackling Pikes Peak and demonstrating its energy recuperation capabilities, to putting its all-electric quattro drive to the test in trying conditions of a dried-out salt lake on the edge of the Kalahari Desert in Namibia – the e-tron prototypes certainly got around.

Evaluating the different charging standards on proving grounds and in public areas around the world obviously formed part of the extensive evaluation process, which was one of the areas assessed when the e-tron prototype made its way Down Under.

Here, as with every port of call around the globe, the bright camouflage livery of the e-tron prototype drew curious onlookers and attention wherever it went.

Evaluating the different charging standards on proving grounds and in public areas around the world obviously formed part of the extensive evaluation process

The e-tron prototype covered more than 3500km during its time Down Under

“The e-tron prototype attracted a lot of attention while it was in Australia,” said Matt Dale, Product Planning Manager at Audi Australia.

“People were very curious to know exactly what it was and there were also a lot of people who recognised it immediately and had been following the vehicles’ international appearances though the media,” he said.

The trip saw the same level of attention at each stop of its long loop from Sydney to Brisbane, then to Claireview, Queensland, back to Dubbo in central NSW, and back to Sydney. A trip of over 3500km on highways, B roads and dirt roads.

Checking the charging infrastructure was one of the primary goals of the trip, and to confirm that the networks’ supplied accurate GPS data for their charging stations, which is of course an integral part of efficient electric mobility.

On a long trip – say, from Sydney to Melbourne – the navigation in the e-tron will offer route options via the handiest available charging points along the way. During trip planning, the system is then able to advise you to stop off at a particular charging station location for, say, a 30-minute top-up in order reach 80 percent of capacity – enough to get to your destination.

The mission was deemed a resounding success. In addition, throughout the e-tron prototype’s trip Down Under, the vehicle received a warm welcome and took the local conditions in its stride – compared to the Saharan deserts and frozen lakes of the Arctic Circle, Australia was a welcome relief in the world tour. 

Now all is in readiness for the arrival in the new year of the series production Audi e-tron which, although not available in the striking e-tron livery of the prototype, will nevertheless be just as at home in the land Down Under.