Audi e-tron GT: are laser lights the future?
Late run home in the e-tron GT. I might as well tell you about it actually, because why I was driving the e-tron GT late at night is probably more relevant to you than the incredible laser lights I was going to bang on about.
And the answer is: because I’d chickened out. Three days in the depths of Wales shooting the Singer DLS followed by Morgan’s hilarious new CX-T rally car. I was going to take the e-tron GT along, but then reality bit. Where and when would I charge? I’d have to drive 140 miles to Llandow circuit where there is no charging, then that evening 170 miles north through Wales where I know there are only a handful of realistic 50kW swift chargers (50kW is not fast), any of which could be occupied/bust, and even if they weren’t would cost me hours of delay in a schedule with precisely zero slack.
The next day I might have coped on a single charge, but the following day? Not a chance. Into a Welsh quarry from sun up to sundown then all the way home. So I took a petrol car instead. A Porsche 911 GT3 Touring, which did all 641 miles on a single refuel. It had to be back at Porsche late Wednesday night, where I then picked up the e-tron and realised just how awesome the lights are.
So yes, I feel a slight fraud. I had wanted to prove to myself that electric is completely viable, but on that occasion and another in the last month, a Dads and lads trip to the Isle of Skye, I’ve reverted to internal combustion. I don’t like myself for doing it because I feel I’m letting you down, but I know the reality of electric charging out there. It’s amusing to read about stranding myself in the middle of nowhere or the litany of busted/occupied chargers, but the reality when distances are long and schedules tight is that electric still isn’t fit for purpose.
You’re thinking Teslas are different, right? Well so did I, until the situation that befell the other Dad I went to Scotland with. Model X, driving up from London. Sat nav has told him where to charge, so he stops near Birmingham. He’d recently had his car’s charging hardware upgraded. Unfortunately the software wasn’t uploaded as well. He hadn’t noticed, because it only affected charging away from home.
Long story short: he spends five hours using his phone data to re-download and install his car’s entire code. It works, but it’s super-stressful. Imagine if he had stopped somewhere with no 4G coverage? Smooth, if much delayed, journey up from there, although on Skye his car spends three days plugged into a three pin, quenching its thirst. I took diesel, it took us all over Skye and beyond, had twice the Tesla's range and took four minutes to top up.
I realise it’s not the future, but it shows what we’re used to and how far behind the electric experience lags – the infrastructure chiefly, but also a car’s range. If I’m gentle (AC off, Eco mode) I can get 250 miles from the e-tron GT. But on the way back from Scotland, the iron-bladdered Marriage Dad-and-lad team did 370 miles from Fort William to Derbyshire without a single stop. So electric sometimes requires compromise that I’m not yet able to make.
So let me move on and talk about these headlights. Standard on the Vorsprung, you can’t actually option them on the entry e-tron GT. The Matrix LED lights do their clever thing, and provided the camera in the top of the windscreen reckons the road is clear and you’re doing over 43.5mph, on come the lasers. They’re sited in the ‘X’ of the headlight, a monochromatic blue laser beam with a 450-nanometer wavelength. That then passes through a phosphor converter transforming it into white light with a 5,500 Kelvin colour temperature.
A lot of science has happened in order to for you to be able to see further ahead on the autobahn. But see further ahead you definitely can. The claim is that the lasers offer double the depth penetration of the regular headlights (which still stay on), a total range of 600 metres.
The result is amazing – the GT’s headlight are good already, but when the lasers shine (a little icon appears on the dash) it’s like you’ve turned on one of those WW2 searchlights. A bright, narrow beam extends as far as the eye can see. For full effect, drive down a narrow, hedge-lined road – it gives you a better idea of just how far ahead you’re seeing.