The Audi A3 e-tron.
As you step into Audi's upcoming plug-in hybrid vehicle offering, the A3 e-tron, the silence is the first thing you notice. Mashable gave it a whirl around a go-cart track in Australia and the only sound you can hear as you put your foot down is the screeching of the wheels as it handles the intense corners.
The concern of being stranded with power is instantly debunked, as this futuristic piece of machinery can travel 50km on electric mode, but up to 940km in hybrid mode, which will kick in automatically when you hit the 100km/h mark. This means if you are only commuting to work in a major city, you can get away with charging it with the household plug in five hours (2.5 hours with the express) overnight in your garage in preparation for your work day and not rushing to the petrol station to fill up.
By driving the e-tron, the first of Audi's hybrid models to roll out, your petrol costs a day can be reduced by 50km. With fuel costs tipping a weekly average (based on week ending Nov. 30) at A$1.40 a litre, that equals a A$70 saving per charge. If you do get close to the 50km limit in your commute, when you switch to hybrid mode it will recharge you battery ready to roll again, saving you even more in fuel.
The car comes with a charging dock, which can be transported around in a suitcase-style container, fitted into your garage by Audi staff on purchase. It can be installed at home or at a workplace, with a shut-off function protecting it from theft. One of the worries about the switch to pure electric models has been the lack of infrastructure in the cities to re-charge your car, but the Audi hybrid model is a work-around until these are in place, and if sales are promising, perhaps the government will be encouraged to roll out charging stations across the city.
Some quick stats for the interested parties: The five-door Audi sportsback has a 1.4-litre turbo engine and 75kW electric motor, producing a system output of 150kW and maximum torque of 350Nm. It can hit 100 km/h in 7.6 seconds and has a top speed of 222 km/h (while driving in electric mode is limited to a top speed of 130km/h). Being an eco-friendly hybrid, the Audi e-tron in petrol-mode only sucks up 1.6 litres of juice for every 100km — meaning a low 37 grams per kilometre of CO2 emissions. So it may not make car enthusiasts totally lose their minds, but it will surely appeal to a environmentally-aware, disposable-income, latte-drinking, 30-something set.
Electronic cars have generally been viewed as a novelty item, but this has changed in recent times, especially with the interest in the full-electronic car the Tesla, which has made its mark as a status symbol with Silicon Valley's cool kids, but with a starting price of A$100,000, it is a little out of reach to the regular Aussie. If you are edging into the electric market, a reasonably-priced luxury car such as the hybrid Audi e-tron might be the way to go. You have the comfort of knowing fuel is always an option, but for around A$10,000 more than a top-of-the-line A3 model, you can save fuel costs, show off to your mates and take pride in the fact you are saving the planet with your new low carbon footprint.
The Audi e-tron is available in Australia in March 2015, for a starting price of around A$60,000. It is stylish, silent and would get an inner city dweller through their commute, but as yet there is still debate around resale value of electric cars (though hybrids seem to fare better) and the hassle of charging up the car due to lack of infrastructure, not to mention your new higher-value electricity bill.
The Audi isn't the first plug-in vehicle and it will not be the last. The Holden Volt has been in Australia for the same price since 2012, Tesla are hitting our roads on Dec. 9 and the BMW i8 will ship here in the new year, though with an asking point of $300k it is probably just for a special few. It seems the future of plug-in cars Down Under is looking promising as we slide into 2015.
Tags: AUDI, AUSTRALIA, ETRON, US & World