For most of its early life, the Audi e-tron family was born and bred for the auto show circuit, and it did quite well there. To really make an impact, though, the cars need to get out, and some e-trons have been making forays onto public streets recently. A fleet of 20 A1 e-trons is about to scoot around the streets of Munich in a program that was announced a year ago.

The purpose, as with so many of the plug-in vehicle test fleets run by major automakers, is to gather data on how people use these new powertrains. In Munich, Audi's data-collecting partner is the Technische Universität München, with E.ON and the public utility Stadtwerke München responsible for the local charging infrastructure. Befitting a high-profile program like this, at least some of the energy used to power the A1 plug-in hybrids will be generated from renewable sources.

Since the A1 e-tron can be powered by both gasoline and electricity, it's clear that some of the Munich miles will not be renewably sourced. The little A1 e-tron can go up to 31 miles on electric power, enough to get most urban residents around their city each day without emitting any local emissions. When the lithium-ion battery runs out, a "compact combustion engine" kicks in. Today's press release doesn't detail what kind of combustion engine that is, but the concept version of the A1 e-tron used a Wankel rotary engine. The gas-electric combination gives the A1 e-tron a fuel economy rating of 124 mpge (using the "proposed standard for determining the fuel efficiency of vehicles with range extenders," Audi says). Wish you could drive the A1 e-tron in your town? Franciscus van Meel, head of electric mobility strategy for Audi, said in a statement that the automaker is, "planning additional fleet endeavors in strategically important markets."
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Pilot project kicks off with Audi A1 e-tron in Munich

20 Audi A1 e-tron models now on Munich streets
TU Munich gathering and evaluating mobility data
CO2-free mobility with green power

Ingolstadt/Munich, October 28, 2011 – As of today, 20 units of the Audi A1 e-tron are on the roads of the Munich pilot region. Some trial participants even got the keys to their electric cars weeks ago. Audi, E.ON, the public utility Stadtwerke München and Technische Universität München (TUM) are project partners in this fleet trial. E.ON and SWM are in charge of expanding and maintaining the charging infrastructure in the Munich metropolitan area.

As a symbolic gesture, Audi handed over the A1 e-tron fleet vehicles today to its project partners and trial participants. E.ON and SWM have installed a demand-oriented charging infrastructure; SWM within the Bavarian capital's city limits and E.ON primarily in outlying areas. All electric fueling stations offer power generated via renewable energies. This fleet trial is part of the "Modellregion Elektromobilität München" (Electric Mobility in Munich as a Pilot Region) project, sponsored by Germany's Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Development. The Ministry is providing the region with some ten million euros for electric mobility. This project will address a number of issues, ranging from the power grid itself to data transfer between drivers, vehicles, and electric fueling stations. For example, the use of a smartphone as a driver's main interface will be examined.

"Audi works relentlessly on comprehensive approaches which maximize benefits to customers. In this era of electric mobility, we will offer our customers a wide range of services which go beyond driving itself. For example, the networking of vehicles with their surroundings and with infrastructure as well as new concepts of mobility will be important," emphasizes Franciscus van Meel, Head of Electric Mobility Strategy at AUDI AG. He adds: "We want to use this fleet trial to learn more about our customers' usage of electric cars, and their expectations in this regard. We are planning additional fleet endeavors in strategically important markets."

The Audi A1 e-tron is an electric car with a range extender. Its output of 75 kW (102 hp) enables the A1 e-tron to reach a top speed of 130 km/h (80.78 mph). If the battery runs out of energy, then a compact combustion engine – the range extender – recharges the battery as needed to boost the vehicle's operating range to as much as 250 km (155 miles). This compact electric car is a zero-emissions vehicle for the first 50 kilometers (31 miles) of a trip – in city traffic, for instance. The battery comprises a package of lithium-ion modules mounted in the floor assembly in front of the rear axle. In short, the four-seat A1 e-tron was designed for daily driving in metropolitan areas. It consumes a mere 1.9 l/100 km (123.80 US mpg), for a CO2 equivalent of just 45 g/km (72.42 g/mile)*.

As Ruth Werhahn, Head of Electric Mobility at E.ON AG, emphasizes: "The fleet trial which started today will only add to the expertise we have been acquiring during more than ten pilot projects for electric mobility in six European countries. We have blazed new trails in the charging infrastructure. We have set up not only public charging points near large cities but also innovative charging points at multi-level parking lots in city centers. Drivers simply insert their parking-lot tickets to use the charging points and then pay for their electricity along with the parking fee."

E.ON has already developed commercially viable charging solutions for various scenarios. For example, the company markets a package to private individuals in Germany: green power and a charging box for use at home. But E.ON first conducts a safety inspection of these customers' electrical equipment. After all, not every electrical outlet and its wiring is designed to withstand the heavy loads associated with recharging an electric vehicle for hours. E.ON also supplies charging stations open to the general public – primarily commercial customers. At these stations, two electric cars can recharge their batteries at the same time via different charging points. Magnetic-stripe cards grant drivers access. Both types of electric fueling stations are being used in the Munich fleet trial. In addition, E.ON is fostering the continuous enhancement of charging technology by focusing on direct-current (DC) fast charging as well as cable-free charging.

Dr. Florian Bieberbach, Commercial Director at SWM: "We have been working with partners for quite some time on various projects concerning individual electric mobility. As the operator of streetcars and subway trains, we have more than 115 years of electric-mobility experience in public transportation. SWM is responsible for the charging infrastructure within Munich city limits; we also offer the green power which facilitates CO2-neutral driving. The foundation for this was laid by our Renewable Energies expansion campaign. We want to generate enough green electricity by 2025 to supply the entire Munich metro area with electricity. Munich is thus on pace to become the world's first city of a million-plus inhabitants to achieve this ambitious goal."

TUM is collecting and analyzing data on people's mobility during the project. In which situations do people drive electric cars and to what degree? And how will this technology influence the use of other means of transportation? To answer these questions, the departments of Automotive Engineering and of Ergonomics have developed a mobile application that all fleet-trial participants can use on their smartphones. More specifically, these devices will thoroughly document participants' mobility behavior – from their use of bicycles through electric cars and combustion-engine passenger vehicles to buses and trains. At the same time, the Department of Services Marketing is conducting a study to ascertain suitable models for billing electric-mobility customers.

"For researchers, it is no longer a question of whether electric mobility will catch on, but rather when. Electric mobility constitutes a paradigm shift for companies and society alike. This fleet trial allows us to learn more about people's mobility habits under a new set of circumstances," says Professor Markus Lienkamp at TU Munich's Department of Automotive Engineering. "Insights from this project can then serve as the basis for worthy approaches to sustainable individual mobility."

*calculated as per the proposed standard for determining the fuel efficiency of vehicles with range extenders


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  • 20 Comments
      Tweaker
      • 3 Years Ago
      Will the Volt haters like Eric Loveday decry this as not a real car because it also has an ICE?
      DaveMart
      • 3 Years Ago
      'The Audi A1 e-tron is an electric car with a range extender. Its output of 75 kW (102 hp) enables the A1 e-tron to reach a top speed of 130 km/h (81 mph). The battery comprises a package of lithium-ion modules mounted in the floor assembly in front of the rear axle. If the battery runs out of energy, then a compact combustion engine recharges the battery as needed to boost the vehicle’s operating range to as much as 250 km (155 miles). This compact electric car is a zero-emissions vehicle for the first 50 kilometers (31 miles) of a trip. ' http://www.greencarcongress.com/2011/10/pilot-project-kicks-off-with-20-audi-a1-e-tron-extended-range-electric-vehicles-in-munich.html Hmm. Considering Audi's likely fairly leisurely release schedule, if they reckon 155 miles is enough range they could probably do that with batteries and skip the combustion engine. I don't really understand the way they are thinking. If you are going to use an RE, why not go for a decent range? This sort of configuration only really makes sense if battery prices are relatively high.
        paulwesterberg
        • 3 Years Ago
        @DaveMart
        I am guessing that the range extender mileage is pretty horrible. Bad enough that they want to discourage people from driving it long distance very often. Also they don't want to carry around a huge tank full of gas all the time when it is only used part of the time. If it gets 25mpg on the range extender then 3 gallons of gas would provide the 124 miles of extended range they list. This limited gas range may not be so bad if the car is used primarily for commuting in Europe where long trips are often done by rail or air. Here in the states our lack of efficient passenger rail transportation and exorbitant airfare prices make occasional long distance driving necessary.
          paulwesterberg
          • 3 Years Ago
          @paulwesterberg
          Math fail, sorry, they would need 5 gallons to go 125 miles.
        Neil Blanchard
        • 3 Years Ago
        @DaveMart
        I agree; and 30-31 miles range on the 12kWh pack seems fairly mediocre, too. The Leaf would do ~37 miles, and the Illuminati '7' would do ~75 miles, and the Edison2 VLCe would do about 95 miles on that pack size. Neil
        DaveMart
        • 3 Years Ago
        @DaveMart
        The power available when the engine is switched on is tiny, too, only 15kw - so is the performance after 31 miles shockingly bad? So far series hybrids seem horrible, judging by this and the Fisker Karma.
          Chris M
          • 3 Years Ago
          @DaveMart
          I suspect the "range extender" kicks in well before the battery is drained, so the battery can still provide extra power when needed for acceleration.
      PR
      • 3 Years Ago
      With commodity Li-Ion laptop cells historically dropping at a CAGR of 14% a year (measured in cost per kWh), they should be able to put more battery power in there by 2016 for the same price. Here would be the new numbers: 2012: 35 miles at the same price per kWh 2013: 40 miles at the same price per kWh 2014: 46 miles at the same price per kWh 2015: 52 miles at the same price per kWh 2016: 60 miles at the same price per kWh Sure, there are weight and space issues that aren't addessed with this math, but the point is that commodity lap-top litium ion batteries have historically dropped in price while increasing in kWh at 14% historically, so by 2016, Audi has a good chance of having better statistics than their current test fleet. If they do it right, they might actually have a chance at making a nice Generation 1.5 REEV city car. It does suck that we'll still be waiting through 2016. http://green.autoblog.com/2011/01/06/deutsche-bank-li-ion-battery-cost-forecast-per-kwh/
        Spec
        • 3 Years Ago
        @PR
        I wish I could believe those predicted price drops. But I don't. I've been watching the prices of Li-Ions that EV hobbyists can buy and they really have not been dropping. (Solar panels have sure dropped in price though!)
          PR
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Spec
          The 14% statistic is the actual historic data for Li-ion commodity laptop batteries.
      markkiernan
      • 3 Years Ago
      I see the drip drip release of EVs from our German friends continue. It would be better if they invested in a pure EV like Tesla but they weak watered down (lease for 10 years and consider selling) gets a slow hand clap from me. Perhaps I am being mean but it is frustrating when you know they have millions of dollars for investment and they don't use it.
      Ryan McKinlay
      • 3 Years Ago
      I think any car with a range extender needs to get at least 50miles-electric and 350miles-extended to be "practical" for most U.S. consumers. I know I would gladly trade in my A4 for this A1 if it got those numbers. My daily commute is only 5 miles each way so it would be great for around-town driving. But when I visit my family, it's a 4 1/2 hour trip and I would rather not have to refuel halfway through the drive.
      paulwesterberg
      • 3 Years Ago
      What is its mileage when running on the range extender? I trust audi's 124 mpge number about as much as I trusted GM's 230mpg claim. If they made it a BEV with 124 miles of range then I might be interested.
        Larz Larzen
        • 3 Years Ago
        @paulwesterberg
        There was some guy who owns a Volt on the Cavuto show a few days ago. He claimed around 200+. BTW, his enthusiasm had the adamant-against-the-Volt Cavuto wavering. Neil wasn't close to the fence before, but after that interview, he is on the fence. He'll be driving something similar within 5 years, my guarantee. Hope to welcome you to the club soon, my friend, Neil Cavuto.
      Spec
      • 3 Years Ago
      Test fleet in 2012? LOL.
        markkiernan
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Spec
        Don't be so mean they are just 5 years behind the curve. They have plenty of time to recover, I even bet the CEO is saying that they will be number one in 2015 ;)
        budfox
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Spec
        Lets see who laughs last.
      Nick
      • 3 Years Ago
      Test fleet 2012 with a "planned availability" in ...2016 ?
        markkiernan
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Nick
        Don't forget that is fleet availability in 2016 which means that the public will be able to lease in 2018 with possible sale in 2020 ;)
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