Audi has been at the forefront of hybrid technology since the 80s with the release of the Audi duo concept car. As the first manufacturer in the world to put a hybrid on sale and as creator of the world’s first hybrid race car, Audi has made a name for itself in this electrifying arena and is still leading the way.
The Audi duo debuted in 1989, based on the Audi 100 Avant. A five-cylinder petrol engine drove the front wheels, and a part-time 12hp electric motor drove the rear wheels. The Audi duo II, based on the Audi 100 Avant quattro, followed two years later.
In 1997, Audi became the first European automotive manufacturer to build a limited edition of a hybrid vehicle – the Audi duo III, a trend-setting production plug-in based on the A4 Avant. Ahead of its time, the 90hp 1.9-litre TDI and water-cooled 29hp electric motor in the rear both provided power to the front wheels. The battery charged from a socket, making it the first production plug-in hybrid, with the electric motor able to recover energy during deceleration too; in electric mode, the duo almost reached 50mph, reaching over 100mph with TDI power.
Audi also created the world’s first hybrid race car – the R18 e-tron quattro. Through the intelligent combination of a conventionally powered rear axle with an electrically powered front axle, the Audi R18 is transformed into an e-tron quattro – the first Audi race car not powered exclusively by a combustion engine. Bursting onto the scene in 2012, the tarmac-shredding e-tron quattro finished both first and second in its debut 24 Hours of Le Mans, dominating the race – and it was the first hybrid race car ever to win. It was voted by an Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) jury to be one of the most important Le Mans race cars of all time.
Audi Sport has redesigned the Audi R18 for the 2016 season with significantly altered aerodynamics. The LMP1 race car that competes in Le Mans and the FIA World Endurance Championship features innovative aerodynamics, lightweight design and a state-of-the-art hybrid system.
Away from the track, the e-tron arm of Audi brings hybrid power to the road, blending progressive technology with everyday usability to create premium electric mobility without compromise. With the A3 e-tron Sportback forming part of the current Audi offering, plus with the Q7 e-tron on its way, Audi’s electronic line-up is set to expand.
The e-tron models are easy to charge, highly efficient and offer the flexibility to drive with just the combustion engine, just the electric drive for up to 31 miles, or in hybrid mode with both. There’s no compromise, with the A3 e-tron Sportback boasting acceleration of 0 – 62mph in just 7.9 seconds, as well as offering a 5% BIK rate and £0 congestion charge. Charge at home with a charge point in 2 hours 15 minutes or from a domestic socket in 4 hours.
With an A1 e-tron concept and hybrid-powered R8 concept potentially in the Audi pipeline, where will electric power take the Bavarian brand? By testing concepts on the track in extreme conditions then applying them to the road, Audi has proven that technology is completely transferable.
Both track and production models have been successful so far using hybrid technology for Audi – and there is much more to come. Well-established in the hybrid world, Audi is still looking to reach greater heights on both the road and in racing, as can be seen with the release of innovative concept cars and by continually improving performance on production vehicles.