Earlier today, German automaker Audi unveiled the latest in its e-tron plug-in concept cars at the 2012 Beijing Auto Show.

Based upon the A6 L, a highly-popular Chinese-only variant of the A6 sedan, the A6 L e-tron plug-in hybrid concept combines a 2.0-liter turbocharged, direct injected gasoline engine and a 70 kilowatt peak electric motor to deliver a total of 306 horsepower. 

Audi claims the concept is capable of traveling up to 50 miles in all-electric mode at a constant speed of 37 mph, but doesn’t detail how large the A6 L e-tron’s liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery pack is. 

Much like the 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid, the Audi A6 L e-tron is a series parallel hybrid, meaning it can operate in all-electric, gasoline-only, or combined power modes, allowing the driver to choose between performance or economy driving styles. 

Since it uses the same chassis as the existing Audi A6 L, the A6 L e-tron concept uses 10 percent aluminum in its body panels, which Audi claims makes it 15 percent lighter than a conventional steel-bodied car. 

In addition, Audi has hinted that any production version of the car could use carbon fiber-reinforced polymers to help make future e-tron models even lighter. 

Produced in conjunction with Audi’s Chinese business partners FAW, the A6 L e-tron concept is unlikely to be produced anywhere outside of China in its current form.

With a reasonably-impressive all-electric range and further evolution of Audi’s e-tron drivetrain on display however, we think the A6 L e-tron represents an interesting glimpse into future European- and U.S.-market plug-in cars from Audi. 

In fact, with increasingly large numbers of middle-class Chinese buyers looking to buy high-price European brand cars, not to mention renewed drive from the Chinese government to encourage plug-in cars, we think it’s highly likely that China will become Audi’s test-bed for future plug-in car technology. 

Watch this space. 


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