With BMW slowly revealing further details of their upcoming Megacity EV and teasing us with the 2009 MINI E, and Mercedes-Benz giving us the A-Class E-Cell, it was only a matter of time before rival Audi hit the roads with their own small EV.
Revealed at the 2010 Geneva Motor Show in March, their A1 e-tron concept is the third of Audi's e-tron concepts to wow motor show crowds, the other cars being based on their R8 supercar and upcoming TT-sized R4.
And now, Audi has plans for a fleet of the new A1 e-trons to hit the streets in Munich with 20 vehicles up and running by the middle of next year.
The e-tron program is partnered by the Munich municipal utility company Stadtwerke München (SWM, who are responsible for electric tramways and subways around Munich) and the Technical University of Munich (TUM). We suspect someone at Audi has a sense of humour though as Munich is also where BMW's headquarters are located...
As part of the project, 200 new charging stations will be installed around the city and data from the trials will be collected to determine how these stations are used, as well as collecting information on how the vehicles themselves are used. Data will be analysed at the TUM, and drivers will also be equipped with smartphones allowing them to coordinate charging and keep track of their car, much like the systems used by Nissan, GM and Smart with their EVs.
As BMW have found out with the MINI E, drivers seem to use EVs no differently than they would a petrol model, though unlike the electric MINI, the A1 e-tron has rear seats so should prove more practical.
Rupert Stadler, Chairman of the Board of Management of Audi AG, says "[Audi] are dedicated to a holistic approach to all aspects [of EVs]," and that the trial aims to "gain broad insights into the behavior and expectations of our customers regarding their dealings with electric cars".
Audi are moving charging points to parking lots and equipping private garages with charging stations in response to customer behaviour. These charging stations will also use green electricity from renewable energy, meaning the e-tron will be a truly zero emissions vehicle.
The Audi A1 e-tron
The Audi A1 e-tron itself is based on Audi's A1 subcompact, and operates a range-extending combustion engine, similar in concept to the 2011 Chevrolet Volt. In the Audi, the unit itself is a small, single-rotor Wankel rotary engine, providing 15 kilowatts of charging power for the lithium-ion battery pack.
On electricity alone, the e-tron can travel over 30 miles in city traffic. The range-extender provides another 124 miles of range, giving an equivalent fuel consumption of 1.9 liters per 100 kilometers, or over 123 miles per gallon.
The motor has a peak power output of 75 kW (102 horsepower) and Audi have limited top speed to 80mph to conserve range. Acceleration should be competitive, with 100 km/h (62mph) arriving in 10.2 seconds.
There's no word yet on when, or indeed if, the e-tron will go into production (nor whether the model is destined for U.S. shores), but for the time being we're glad to see another manufacturer committing themselves to a serious EV program.