Audi Proves Hybrid and Electric Technology Not Just for MPG Fanatics

Fresh off their historic win at the 24 Hours of LeMans, where Audi became the first manufacturer to win the race with a hybrid vehicle, the company has set another green speed milestone. This time, Audi smashed the lap record for a series production electric car at the famed Nürburgring race track in the Eifel Mountains of Germany. The all-electric drive Audi R8 e-tron was pushed to a 8.09.099 minute lap around the 12.92 mile circuit by Audi racing driver Markus Winkelhock.

To provide some perspective on Winkelhock's time, the current production car lap record of 7:11.57 is currently owned by the Gumpert Apollo Sport, which is powered by an Audi-derived V8 gasoline engine that produces 700 horsepower. Additionally, Sport Auto Magazine hustled Audi's gasoline V8-powered R8 to a 8.04 lap time in 2007, while clocking a 7.44 lap time in the gasoline V10-powered R8 in 2009.

While Audi's LeMan's victory was achieved with a high-tech, no-holds-barred, prototype racing car, Audi accomplished their Nürburgring feat with a pre-production version of its forthcoming R8  e-tron. The vehicle is essentially an all-electric version of its R8 sports car. Audi's engineers replaced the R8's traditional internal-combustion engine and corresponding drivetrain with two electric motors. Off the line, the two motors can combine to send an astonishing 4,900 Nm (or 3,614 lb-ft of torque in typical internal combustion rating methods) to the rear wheels almost instantaneously. This enables the R8  e-tron to hit 60 mph in just 4.6 seconds. The top speed of the production car will be limited to 125 mph, but for the record-setting lap, top speed capabilities were raised to 155 mph.

While electric vehicles provide engineers with the obstacle of locating the heavy batteries required to provide power to the electric motors, Audi engineers used a T-shaped, rechargeable lithium-ion battery that was cleverly located in the vehicle's center tunnel between the passenger compartment and rear axle. This helps keep the vehicle's center of gravity low for improved vehicle dynamics and handling. The battery stores 49 Kwh of energy and will provide an approximate distance of 133 miles in the production version of the vehicle. The battery is also charged by energy recovery systems in use during coasting and braking.

To account for the extra weight of the battery and electric motors, Audi engineers used an extensive amount of carbon fiber throughout the vehicle, along with the R8's mostly aluminum body. This helps keep the vehicle's weight to just 3,924 lbs. despite the large battery. To put that in perspective, Audi's V8-powered R8 model weighs in at 3,605 lbs.

Drivers can expect to see the production version of the car, using the identical technology found in the record setting pre-production car, later this year.

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