Audi A3 Sportback e-tron swells VW’s plug-in hybrid choices

  • 11-Jan-2015 07:56 EST
Audi11-14 A3 etronA3e130024.jpg

Audi's new A3 Sportback e-tron has a 110kW gasoline engine and 75kW electric motor.

“For Audi, the A3 Sportback e-tron plug-in hybrid marks another important step towards sustainable individual mobility,” said Audi Head of Sales, Wayne Griffiths. But it is undeniably a small step, however worthy it may be.The car gets it's auto show debut in Detroit at the 2015 North American International Auto Show.

Persuading buyers that such technology meets their requirements at the right price remains a global challenge for the auto industry’s sales and marketing expertise, and is a constant reminder that public mindsets are tough to change, no matter how sensible, sophisticated, and sustaining are the design and engineering programs supporting a solution.

Part of the persuasion campaign includes tax benefits and outright State-backed financial support. For example, in the UK, an A3 Sportback e-tron buyer gets a £5000 off-set from the government.

In keeping with the Volkswagen Group’s policy of technology sharing, the Audi plug-in solution, now starting to be delivered to European customers, is very close to that in the Golf GTE (see http://articles.sae.org/13535/). The hybrid system comprises a 1.4-L TFSI 110-kW (148-hp) gasoline engine delivering 250 N·m (184 lb·ft) maximum torque, and a 75-kW electric motor having 330-N·m (243-lb·ft) torque capability.

Its official combined fuel consumption in accordance with the NEDC standard for plug-in hybrid vehicles is 1.5 L/100 km with CO2 emissions of 35 g/km. But testing in Europe by this Automotive Engineering editor over a wide mix of roads, saw an average of about 5.9 L/100 km, which is the reality of the concept. It can be argued, of course, that under selectable electric power alone, its range of 50 km (31 mi) makes it a ZEV for that distance. And some of that range can be “stored” for use in various journey phases through urban areas. The car’s total range is 900 km (560 mi).

Purely from a driving aspect, the solution is very satisfactory in terms of performance (0-100 km/h in 7.6 s, top speed of 222 km/h) and, generally, regarding ride and handling, although the 125-kg (275-lb) weight of its 8.8-kW·h, eight-module, 96-cell lithium ion battery positioned under the floor beneath the rear bench seat makes itself felt when the car is driven quickly over winding roads. The battery sits in an aluminum housing.

Battery temperature is controlled via a liquid cooling system with its own low temperature circuit. Power electronics are positioned under the hood.

The A3 Sportback e-tron’s disc-shaped electric motor is integrated between the flywheel and a bespoke designed six-speed e-S tronic (dual-clutch) transmission.

Vehicle weight is 1615 kg (3560 lb) unladen (EU) but with driver. The car comes standard with a relatively high specification. Externally, the A3 Sportback e-tron differs little from a regular Sportback.

The battery can be fully charged in some 2.5 h via a 3.6-kW charger. Energy recovery is achieved during braking. The vacuum brake servo has an additional supply connection served by an electric vacuum pump. Low to moderate braking forces can be achieved depending on the driving mode selected, via the electric motor as it operates as an alternator, putting expended energy back into the battery. The battery has an 8-year life guarantee.

All relevant components within the high-voltage network of the car have no conductive connections to other parts of the vehicle, claims Audi. In a crash situation sufficiently serious to initiate belt tensioning and airbag deployment, the high-voltage network is instantly disconnected from the power supply.

The A3 Sportback e-tron’s four-ring grille badge slides to reveal the charger socket.

The conventional A3’s rev counter is replaced by a “powermeter” to display overall system power and there is a battery status display.

Audi states that it is planning many online services for its electrified cars, providing various activating processes including charging processes.

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