Audi has revealed a new all-electric concept car inspired by the world of motorsport at the 2018 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.
Dubbed the “PB18 e-tron”, which refers both to the Pebble Beach venue used for its premiere and to the technological DNA it is claimed to share with the Audi R18 e-tron LMP1 racing car, the futuristic-looking machine has been conceived and created in the German manufacturer’s new design studio in Malibu, California.
At first glance, the PB18 e-tron looks similar to another recently-produced concept car from the brand, namely, the Audi Aicon from 2017. This holds true not only for characteristic design elements like the side windows that angle inwards and the extended wheel arches, but also in terms of their all-electric drivetrains.
This, however, is where the similarities end. While the Aicon was designed as a fully automated, long-distance luxury saloon – a ‘business jet’ for the road – the creators of the PB18 e-tron designed it as a shooting-brake-esque driving machine for both the racetrack and road.
As such, there are therefore no complex systems for piloted autonomous driving on board and no comfort features to add weight. In their place are a driver’s seat and cockpit that are integrated into an inner monocoque shell that is moveable laterally depending on how many occupants are on board.
When driven solo, the monocoque can be positioned in the centre of the interior as in a single-seater ‘monoposto’ – the ideal location for the racetrack. This is made possible not least by the by-wire design of the steering and pedals; a mechanical connection of the control elements is not needed.
When the driver’s monocoque is moved into the side position, from where the PB18 e‑tron can be steered in everyday driving like a conventional road car, there is room for a passenger. An additional seat can be accessed on the other side, integrated low above the ground and equipped with a three-point seatbelt. The driver also benefits when getting in and out from the easily accessible outside position of the monocoque, which can be moved when the door is open up to the sill.
“We want to offer the driver an experience that is otherwise available only in a racing car like the Audi R18. That’s why we developed the interior around the ideal driver’s position in the centre. Nevertheless, our aim was to also give the PB18 e‑tron a high degree of everyday usability, not just for the driver, but also for a potential passenger,” explains Gael Buzyn, the man in charge of Audi’s Malibu design studio.
Adopting the traditional architecture of a mid-engine sports car with a cab that is positioned far forward, the design study’s centre of gravity is located behind the seats and in front of the rear axle
And according to Audi’s engineers, the use of a mix of aluminium, carbon and multi-material composites means the body of the PB18 e-tron achieves a total weight of less than 1,550 kg.
Power, meanwhile, comes via three electric motors – one up front and two in the rear. The latter are centrally located between the steering knuckles, each directly driving one wheel via half-shafts. They deliver up to 201 bhp of power to the front axle and 469 bhp to the rear.
Maximum output is claimed to be 671 bhp, but with boosting the driver can temporarily mobilise up to 764 bhp. The combined torque of up to 612.2 lb-ft allows acceleration from 0 to 62 mph in just over 2 seconds – a speed that differs only marginally from that of a current LMP1 prototype.
A liquid-cooled solid-state battery with a capacity of 95 kWh supplies energy to the concept car’s three motors. On a full charge, which is claimed to take about 15 minutes, Audi engineers say the battery delivers a range of over 310 miles in the WLTP cycle.
Chassis details include a suspension system modelled on the R18 e-tron quattro Le Mans racing car, whereby the front and rear have independent suspension on lower and upper transverse control arms, and a push-rod system on the front axle and pull-rod system on the rear – in both cases with adaptive magnetic ride shock absorbers.
Externally, the car sits on 22-inch wheels and measures 4.53 metres long, 2 metres wide and 1.15 metres tall, with a wheelbase distance of 2.70 metres.