Electric drive systems are still very much outsiders. The first vehicles of this type took to the roads around 1900, yet in 2009 no volume car manufacturer has a car powered exclusively by batteries in its lineup. Fewer than 1,500 electric vehicles are currently registered in Germany, corresponding to only 0.035 percent of all registered vehicles.
Yet electric driving potentially offers numerous advantages. Electric cars reduce the dependence of transportation and the economy on the raw material petroleum. They produce no direct exhaust emissions and thus ease the local burden on the environment. Electric drive systems are also significantly more efficient than combustion engines, consequently making them easier on the customers’ wallets. Other strengths include sportiness and the fun they bring to driving. All of the torque is essentially available the moment the driver steps on the accelerator, allowing for breathtaking acceleration.
There is still a lot of work to do before electric cars are ready for volume production, however. The greatest challenge is the integration of the energy storage system. Acceptable range and performance requires a traction battery that is heavy and takes up a lot of space. Audi is taking a new approach to offset these disadvantages – a holistic approach with a specific vehicle package, a systematic lightweight construction concept and an optimal configuration of all components for the electric drive.
Audi e-tron – The Holistic Approach
The most important development related to batteries for electric drives are lithium-ion cells. Numerous experts throughout the world are working on their further development for use in cars, with the primary objectives being to reduce weight and increase capacity and performance. Audi has also opted for this technology, both for use in a hybrid production vehicle, such as the upcoming Q5 hybrid, and in the e-tron test platform.
The requirement specification for the concept vehicle goes far beyond battery technology and the replacement of the combustion engine with an electric drive system, however. The Audi development engineers decided back in the concept phase to design practically every component and technology based on the new requirements of electric mobility. The interaction of all elements has a decisive influence on the factors efficiency, range and practicality.