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Audi’s €36M e performance research project closes; electric F12 e Sport with split voltage battery packs and 3 motors

The F12 electric sports car research vehicle looks like an R8 but features a new electric powertrain. Click to enlarge.

Audi’s e performance research project has wrapped up. (Earlier post.) In addition to the development of a technology platform for electromobility and a drivable F12 e Sport research car, the three-year, €36-million (US$47-million) project spawned 20 degree theses and 50 doctoral theses.

Audi—collaborating with Bosch, RWTH Aachen University, and others— launched the e performance project at the Audi Electronics Venture GmbH (AEV) on 1 October 2009 with the objective of developing a scalable systems architecture for electric-powered cars that also included a plug-in hybrid drive. The platform was intended to be suitable for use in everything from a sports car (“e Sport”) to a sedan to a city car.

The engineers from Audi AG and Audi Electronics Venture collaborated closely with Robert Bosch GmbH, Bosch Engineering GmbH and three institutes of RWTH Aachen University: the Institute of Automotive Engineering (ika), the Institute for Power Electronics and Electrical Drives (ISEA) and the Institute of Electrical Machines (IEM).

The technical universities of Munich, Dresden and Ilmenau, Leibniz University Hanover, the Fraunhofer institutes IESE and IISB as well as Forschungsgesellschaft Kraftfahrwesen mbH Aachen were also members of the consortium. The German Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) supported e performance with some €23 million (US$30 million).

e performance was broken down into a dozen work packages from the energy storage system to the control concept to dynamic stability control. In the initial phases, the participants worked mostly with advanced simulation tools, then built submodules and finally a drivable car, the F12.

The sports car looks like a production Audi R8 on the outside, but it is purely electric-powered. The F12 represents the “e Sport” model within the modular system platform.

The research car is powered by three different electric motors, each of which can be controlled separately. During slow driving, only the 50 kW, 180 N·m (133 lb-ft) synchronous motor at the front axle is active. At higher speeds, the two 50 kW, 180 N·m performance-optimized asynchronous motors at the rear axle come into play. Together the three electric motors produce 150 kW (204 hp) and 550 N·m (406 lb-ft) of torque. Their interaction makes the e Sport a fully electric quattro.

One of the key subject areas of the project was the switchable high-voltage battery system. The F12 features a split battery system—two mechanically and electrically separate systems—with an overall capacity of 38.4 kWh. Each block is made up of 200 macrocells. The beveled walls allow the macrocells to shift relative to one another for additional safety in the event of an accident. Cast aluminum sections in the battery system absorb a majority of the crash energy. Computations and initial tests on the component level indicate that this innovative safety concept can even withstand a side impact with pole.

Eperf battery
e performance battery system. Click to enlarge.

The two battery packs deliver different output voltages of 144 or 216 volts. The 144V center tunnel battery pack comprises 80 macrocells at 144 V and with 15.36 kWh capacity. The 216V rear battery pack comprises 120 macrocells with 23.04 kWh capacity. The uniform system voltage required is provided by means of a DC/DC converter. Under part load, the voltage is around 200 volts to maximize efficiency. With increasing power demand and speed, this increases to as much as 440 volts.

The F12 also uses an efficient heat pump for the thermal management of the drive system and the interior. It regulates the temperature of the batteries depending on the situation and can also store heat in them so that less energy is required to heat the interior the next time the car is driven.

The F12 driver controls basic drive functions— Park, Reverse, Neutral and Drive— by operating buttons on the center tunnel. All other operations are controlled via a tablet computer that can be removed from the center console. A user-programmable instrument cluster presents all key information in high resolution.

From the very beginning, our initiative was the largest interdisciplinary research project in Germany for electric cars. Everyone who was involved gained competence and provided valuable qualification among themselves according to the ‘open innovation’ principle, including for the employees at the companies and universities.

—Dr. Christian Allmann, one of the project managers

Using modern development tools and innovative knowledge management, the project partners were able to network very flexibly, Audi said. The researchers used cameras to document each design step and made their knowledge available on a server accessible to all collaboration partners throughout Germany.

The partnerships have note ended with the completion of the F12. The first follow-up projects focusing on specific technical topics such as thermal management have already begun. Individual solutions, such as the CFRP housing for the rear battery, show good prospects for later production use. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research wants to continue to support the development of new automobile concepts, primarily in the areas of the battery, high-performance electronics systems and overall energy management.


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