Earlier on Thursday, we took a look at an all-electric concept from Infiniti that just broke cover. Now, it's Audi's turn.
The car maker has chosen Monterey Car Week to make a statement about the future, and that statement is called the PB18 e-tron. This is the first time Audi's unveiled a concept at Pebble Beach, and it's quite something—an electric sports car that leverages Le Mans-winning technology from the mighty Audi R18 e-tron quattro race car.
If we needed a clue as to the motivation behind the PB18 e-tron, consider it's internal codename. The project's working title was Level Zero, a reference to SAE levels of automation; this is meant to be a driver's car, not a driverless car. To that end, the cockpit and driver's seat can be moved laterally in the car; if you're at the track or don't have any need to cart a passenger around, you can center yourself in the car. (As with the Infiniti Prototype 10, the steering wheel and pedals are all drive-by-wire to make this possible.)
"We want to offer the driver an experience that is otherwise available only in a racing car like the Audi R18," said Gael Buzyn, head of the Audi Design Loft in Malibu. "That's why we developed the interior around the ideal driver's position in the center. 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."
The exterior styling of the PB18 e-tron is no less striking. It's almost a Shooting Brake, a little-used form factor that is in essence a two-door station wagon coupe. Under the aluminum and carbon body are three electric motors—one for the front axle and one apiece for each rear wheel. Together, they give the PB18 e-tron 500kW and 830Nm (612ft-lbs), with a boost function that adds an extra 70kW when you need to go really really fast.
Audi says that the PB18 e-tron should be able to go from a standstill to 62mph (100km/h) in just over two seconds. That should put the PB18 on a par with the dearly departed R18 race car. The R18 also inspired the PB18's suspension with a push-rod arrangement at the front and a pull-rod setup at the rear.
While most of this sounds plausible, it's the battery specs that give the game away. At first glance, I thought the 95kWh pack would have been donated by the e-tron SUV that Megan Geuss drove in recently. A closer look at the specs reveal this isn't the case, however. Audi says the pack is actually a liquid-cooled solid state pack, designed to charge at 800V.
Sadly, that kind of battery is still mainly theoretical at this point. Audi's corporate parent Volkswagen Group, on the other hand, is pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into making it a reality some time in the near future.
Listing image by Audi