Audi has unveiled a concept car at Pebble Beach Automotive Week for the first time ever. The new PB 18 e-tron is a high-performance concept combining success from Audi's LMP1 race car and the R18 e-tron. The car is powered by three electric motors, outputting up to 570 kW (764 horsepower).
The PB 18 e-tron concept was conceived at Audi's Malibu, California design studios and the choice to debut it at Pebble Beach was obvious due to that. The "PB" in the concept's name is for Pebble Beach and the 18 from the R18 e-tron that's had so much success in the Le Mans circuit. Audi says that the PB 18 e-tron is a "Level Zero" car, made purely for driving with no interference from electronics or automated systems.
Design for the Audi concept comes from inspiration by the Aicon concept of 2017, which had a sharp tumblehome and extended wheel arches. Wind tunnel conceptualizing and other driver-focused elements set the PB 18 e-tron apart from the Aicon, however, as the earlier concept was meant to be a fully automated vehicle, while this new Pebble Beach unveiling is a driver-focused vehicle.
"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 Audi Design Loft in Malibu. "That's why we developed the interior around the ideal driver's position in the center."
Indeed, the interior elements of the PB 18 e-tron concept are unusual in that the driver's cockpit is a one piece monocoque. It can slide from the left to center and back again in order to accommodate more cargo, a more traditional driving position, or a passenger. When the doors are closed, the monocoque "locks" into position to prevent movement while driving.
Because this PB 18 e-tron concept is inspired by motorsport, its gravitational center and balance were of primary concern to its designers. The center of gravity is behind the seats and in front of the rear axle. Because no conventional combustion engine or its components are being accommodated, the balance is achieved by positioning battery cells and electric vehicle drive components. The car weighs about 1,550 kg at its heaviest (3,417.2 lb).
The PB 18 e-tron is 4.53 meters long, 2 meters wide and 1.15 meters tall (14.5 x 6.4 x 4.6 ft). Its wheelbase is 2.7 m (8.9 ft, giving it compact overhangs. Cargo space is an unusually good 470 liters (16.6 cubic feet). A luggage set designed to have a custom fit in the cargo space of the PB 18 e-tron has also been designed.
Exterior design elements for this concept include a single red band of lights running along the width of the rear. A high diffuser can be moved mechanically to improve downforce and the spoiler can move outwards for the same reason. Large 22-inch wheels, set in wide wheel arches, are designed to look like turbine inlets when in motion and, like turbine wings, they facilitate airflow to the brakes behind.
Also derived from motorsport, the PB 18 e-tron's laser high-beam headlight tech comes from the Le Mans R18 race car, which used the superior illumination of those lights for night driving to winning effect.
For the driver, a mounted OLED surface just below the windscreen's edge can show a myriad of data, including ideal lines through a curve on the track, navigation instructions on the roadway, and critical vehicle information.
Powering the beautiful e-tron concept is a set of three strong motors. This truly all-wheel drive system has one motor per wheel at the rear, mounted on half-shafts. The forward motor has power output of up to 150 kW (201 hp) to the front axle. At the rear axle, the motors deliver up to 450 kW (603 hp) of power to the rear wheels. Maximum output is combined at 500 kW (671 hp) with boosting allowing up to 570 kW for short bursts. Combined torque output is 830 newton meters (612 pound-feet).
The Audi PB 18 e-tron is thus capable of near-2-second 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) sprints. For normal road driving, however, maximum speed and power output can be limited by the driver in order to maximize range. Large amounts of energy can be recovered via regenerative braking, Audi says. Torque and stability control is almost entirely handled through motor output/restriction rather than braking, aiding this efficiency.
The PB 18 e-tron's battery is a solid-state 95-kWh unit that is liquid cooled, and has an 800-volt charging input for race-ready recharges of just 15 minutes from zero. Total range is over 500 km (311 miles), says Audi. Cordless induction charging and standard outlet plug-in charging is also available on the concept.
At Pebble Beach, Audi is also showcasing its electric mobility solutions, automated driving technologies, and its new city mobility service.
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