Audi diesel-electric to join supercar fight

Last updated 12:40 25/03/2013
Audi's R18 e-tron on its way to victory at Le Mans.
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ON TRACK: Audi's R18 e-tron on its way to victory at Le Mans. Audi is planning to use this racing technology to build diesel-powered supercar.

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Audi is planning to convert its Le Mans-winning diesel-electric prototype racing machine into a road-going hypercar to battle the likes of the Ferrari LaFerrari, McLaren P1 and Porsche 918 Spyder head-on.

The German luxury brand may have ditched plans to build the electric-only R8-based e-Tron but Audi's head of research and development Wolfgang Dürheimer has confirmed plans are continuing to create a new range-topping supercar.

Known currently as the R20, the supercar would use the same combination of turbo diesel and electric propulsion that powered the R18 e-tron to victory at the 2012 Le Mans 24 Hours to take on the biggest names in supercars.

"It will not be an R8 or R9," Dürheimer told Drive, reinforcing that the supercar's heritage would come from the track.

"It will be derived from the race car."

The 3.7-litre V6 turbo diesel would be tuned for road use and be capable of producing more than 400kW of power. While the power from that engine would be sent to the rear wheels, the front wheels would be powered by separate electric motors - thus making it all-wheel-drive and fitting Audi's future vision of e-Tron Quattro.

There have even been suggestions that Audi could base the car around carbon fibre monocoque chassis just like the R18 e-tron, and like the LaFerrari, P1 and Lamborghini Aventador (the Italian supercar firm being owned by Audi).

Dürheimer said the R20 is still on the agenda, despite rumours it had been killed off along with the R8 e-tron, and even hinted at an announcement (or even a concept unveiling) at the 2013 Frankfurt motor show.

The decision to build a diesel-electric hybrid supercar would have been dismissed as unrealistic 10 years ago but the emergence of performance-focused diesels - especially from Audi off the back of its success at Le Mans with diesel prototypes - and the increased emphasis on hybrids makes it a logical step.

Adding a hero car powered by a diesel-electric hybrid would fit perfectly with Audi's plans to push the technology, instead of fully electric cars.

"Our clear policy is plug-in hybrids," Dürheimer said. "I'm absolutely convinced that plug-in hybrid technology will be more than just a bridging technology, that it will be the answer for the time being in the premium end of the luxury segment."

Styling is expected to stay close to the race car, with a long tail-fin running down the centre of the car to help it stand out in a crowd of supercars. Also expect active aerodynamics - a such as a pop-up rear-wing - to play a big role in improving high speed stability and braking.

Audi would also likely carry over the same vertical LED lights from the R18 e-tron (for a family look) and possibly use cameras to replace rear view mirrors as they have on the R18 e-Tron.

-Fairfax News Australia

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