German automaker Audi has a woefully complicated history with electric cars, caused in part by members of its board who don’t seem all that convinced that electric cars will succeed in the marketplace. As a consequence, we’ve seen cars like its all-electric R8 E-Tron sports car pushed and pulled from production plans like an indecisive teenager deciding what clothes to wear on a date.
But as Autocar reports, Audi finally confirmed yesterday at its annual press conference that the R8 e-tron is due to enter production this year. Or rather it will be available as a special order variant of the R8 for those die-hard fans who really want — and can afford — one.
Previously designed by Audi as a concept car and then built in limited numbers as part of an engineering prototype fleet, the R8 e-tron combined good looks with two powerful 140 kilowatt electric motors and a 48.6 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack for blistering performance and track prowess. Yet mediocre real-world range of 113 miles at normal speeds — much less at the blistering 135 mph top speed of the R8 on the German Autobahn — led Audi to state last summer that it would never bring the R8 e-tron to production.
At the start of this year however, Audi’s Technical Technical Chief Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg confirmed that substantial improvements in battery pack design now meant the R8 e-tron had a massively increased range and massively reduced production cost. Moreover, Hackenberg said, this meant the R8 e-tron was heading into production — at least if he could convince Audi’s board.
Speaking at yesterday’s press conference, it seems that Hackenberg was at least partly successful.
“In recent months, I have had a very close look at these electric high-performance sports cars with my team,” he said. “The latest development work is very convincing. We have increased their range from 215 kilometers to approximately 450 kilometers, which is a decisive step towards everyday practicality.” For those unfamiliar with the metric system, 450 kilometers equates to 279 miles of range, placing the R8 e-tron within spitting distance of the Tesla Model S 80 kWh electric sedan in the EV range war.
“We have made significant efficiency gains with mechanical as well as electrical and electronic components of the R8 e-tron,” Hackenberg continued. “The Board of Management of Audi AG has decided to offer the next-generation R8 e-tron as a manufactured sports car upon customer request. And we will make intensive use of the next generation of the R8 e-tron as an open technology carrier and working instrument for our engineers to test and further develop technologies for the future.”
Like so many other luxury sports cars then, the Audi R8 e-tron will be made to order, meaning anyone who wants one — and can afford its likely high-figure yet undisclosed sticker price — will find themselves with a long wait between placing an order and enjoying zero emission German fun.
We’d expect Audi to unveil more details on the R8 e-tron and its ordering process in the coming weeks, along with its final production specifications. But in the meantime, we’re curious to know what you think. Will it sell? Will only rich playboy types like the fictional Tony Stark order one for their Iron Man collection? Or will this car be an unexpected hit?
Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.
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