2014 Audi A3 e-tron plug-in hybrid presentation, Berlin
If Audi is truly serious about electric vehicles, that probably isn't the phrase we'd have chosen to prove it, while showing off its new plug-in hybrid A3 model.
But then, the Ingolstadt automaker might be on to something--for every customer that wants their electrically-powered car to stand out from the crowd and inform the world they're driving a green vehicle, there are plenty more who'd rather not shout about it.
And while the bright red A3 e-tron looked shiny and sophisticated in Audi's carefully orchestrated launch environment, out on the road it'll look very much like any other A3. Few will know just how different it is under the skin.
Audi's prose might still have hinted at an underlying cynicism in electric vehicles, but the car's engineering suggests anything but.
In the nose you'll find a 1.4-liter, four-cylinder turbocharged gasoline engine, working with an electric motor. Together, they produce 204 horsepower and a punchy 258 pounds-feet of torque, much of which is developed usefully low down.
It's sent through what Audi calls its e-S tronic transmission--essentially Audi's standard dual-clutch automatic, with 75 lbs of electric motor sandwiched between the car's dual-mass flywheel and clutch.
The setup is remarkably compact. Audi moved the engine further to the right of the engine bay (or the left, if viewed from in front of the car), the electric motor and transmission sitting beside.
Much of the car's low-revs power stems from the electric motor, with the gasoline engine taking over at 2,200 rpm as it creeps into the meat of its torque band.
Lively acceleration is therefore a given, the 0-62 mph sprint dealt with in 7.6 seconds and only running out of steam at 138 mph. Battery power alone can be used up to 80 mph.
Braking is almost entirely done using the motor's regenerative resistance, though hard braking will rely on friction brakes, as in most electric vehicles.
2014 Audi A3 e-tron plug-in hybrid presentation, BerlinEnlarge Photo
Batteries and range
96 lithium-ion cells sourced from an external company make up the A3 e-tron's battery pack, though everything else about the battery has been developed and constructed by Audi itself.
It weighs 275 pounds, a weight reduced with extensive use of aluminum, and liquid cooled to an ideal 77 Fahrenheit. Trunk space is essentially unaffected by the battery's location (and the gas tank has been moved forward, now over the rear axle).
The pack is rated at between 250-400V and has 8.8 kWh of capacity, enough for around 30 miles of range on the European cycle.
With 10.5 gallons of gasoline also available, total range is said to be 584 miles--though again, this is on the more optimistic European fuel cycle. Bank on around 460 miles or so once the e-tron is EPA-rated.