Are you a tree-hugger? Or are you fascinated by the prospect of an all-electric drive? The A1 e-tron, as Audi explains, is a “customer centric creation” that not only comprises of the car itself, but rather an entire ecosystem that will make driving a electric car feasible. The electrification plan Audi has also includes city planning for better electric vehicle support and a more holistic approach to sustainable mobility, taking into account how the urban environment is constantly evolving.
Audi A1 e-tron first made its debut in Munich in 2011. 20 examples roamed the Munich streets, gathering and evaluating mobility data. Today, the A1 e-tron is on our roads as part of the data collection exercise, since Singapore offers a tropical climate and a well-developed road infrastructure.
The A1 e-tron is a pure electric car, with a single 254 cc rotary engine in the back which acts as a range extender. The 12kWh T-shaped battery pack sits in the middle of the car under the floor, weighing in at 150kg. While the car is capable of achieving 50km in city traffic conditions with pure electric power, the range extender option will give the car an additional 200km of range before one has to stop for refuelling. Charging times are quoted to be at four hours on a normal household socket, and 30 minutes on a fast charge system.
What sets the A1 e-tron apart from a range of electric cars is that it is designed to fit into today’s infrastructure and today’s drivers. While electric cars of the past sacrificed space to store batteries, the A1 e-tron’s power source of lithium-ion modules is mounted under the rear seats. Despite a tiny 12-litre fuel tank, figures are impressive: It sips 1.9 L of fuel per 100 km and CO2 emissions are kept at 45 g/km.
Audi claims that this car is teaser of what’s possible. Onto the drive then…
Having a range extender in an electric car cures a weakness for most electric cars: range anxiety. The engine works as backup, which is great because it does not force a drastic change in driving behaviour and thus maintaining its daily usability.
However, it needed a little getting used to at first because the electric powertrain is much more responsive than the usual petrol-powered options we have today, which requires revving up to get the torque. Merging onto the expressway gave us an opportunity to floor it while overtaking. If any car today that can accelerate like the A1 e-tron can, it will need to have a 1.6-litre turbo or a 1.8-litre naturally aspirated engine, at least. With the instant torque delivery, powering the car into traffic gaps was a breeze too.
The A1 e-tron came equipped with paddle shifters, an odd feature to find on an electric car. Audi explained that these were to adjust the amount of engine braking, regenerative power levels, in this case. With the system set at maximum, the car starts to slow down immediately once we were off the throttle. On the steep “many bends” downhill route we took with the regenerative power set to maximum, not only did the A1 e-tron manage the speed amicably, it charged itself just enough for the uphill climb… but with this much torque, we found ourselves relishing the sprint to the skies.
The world of green motoring is still finding its feet when it comes to finding the best solution to replace the internal combustion engine, but so far this concept appears to be quite a solid and viable option. Piloting the A1 e-tron required no special techniques or procedures: just start and go. It drove much like the standard petrol-powered A1 with no unique quirks, and once you’re done with your trip, just plug it in…. or fill it up.
|Engine||75 kW electric motor, 254cc single-rotor engine|
|Transmission||Direct motor drive|
|Top speed||130 km/h|
|Fuel economy||1.9 L / 100 km|
|Price as tested||N/A|