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News is breaking this week that Audi’s R8 e-tron program could be in jeopardy. The program that began with the first e-tron concept launched at the 2009 Frankfurt IAA has been a long and storied one. Following the concept, Audi’s then development Michael Dick promised the car would be built in the next few years. R8-bodied prototypes followed, including exhibition laps at Le Mans and our test-driving the car near Ingolstadt. Earlier this year Audi made more headlines by setting a record for an electric car at the Nurburgring, and now there’s news that the project may be shelved.
Yesterday, Car & Driver’s European columnist Jens Meiners filed a story detailing the situation. According to Meiners, work on the R8 e-tron project has come to a halt. The move comes at the order of Audi AG’s new development boss Wolfgang Dürheimer. Direct ramifications to this mean that the targeted consumer launch of the R8 e-tron for early 2013 will now be missed and that the entire project could be cancelled.
According to the piece, there are a number of concerns Dürheimer has with the project, though the most important is battery technology. While improved batteries always seem to be on the horizon according to the battery industry, serious improvements in this key component have not been realized by suppliers. This leaves the R8 e-tron range-challenged. Also, the pool of buyers for such a car is so limited as to leave decision makers less than encouraged.
As or right now, the project is under review.
We always take rumors with a grain of salt, but when you consider the often very reliable source of Jens Meiners with the very specific nature of some of the intel and also the timing… we consider the accuracy of this rumor likely very high. This week marks the first round of German journalists in Italy to test drive the new and improved R8. Meiners and other German press were in Rimini, Italy near the Misano race track and in close interaction with key figures in the production R8 program. The level of expertise on the ground in Rimini is very high, and their involvement in the project very direct.
Fourtitude had heard that e-tron production had, at least thus far, been in the same facility outside Neckarsulm where the R8 LMS is produced. The carbon fiber hood (bonnet) of the R8 e-tron is even shared with its racing sibling. By no means was this project in its infancy, so it is likely with great care that Audi is re-evaluating the situation.
If we could make just one suggestion to Audi, it would be this. The e-tron was cool in concept, but seemed like the better and more luxurious answer to the Tesla roadster. In the time since the Tesla was hot, the novelty of an all-electric sportscar seems to be on the wane. Might we suggest instead that Audi consider cashing in on its 2012 24 Hours of Le Mans win and building an R8 TDI e-tron by using its fantastic new Bi-TDI (even with an electric turbo as recently driven by Fourtitude) and pairing it with a similar hybrid drive as seen in the Q5 hybrid. We think there’d be plenty of interest in such a car and nobody has more credibility in building such a car than Audi.
MORE HERE: CAR & DRIVER