Audi launches PB18 e-tron electric concept at Pebble Beach; “Level 0”, a driver’s car; 0-100 km/h in ~2s
Audi is presenting a design and technical electric concept car at Pebble Beach Automotive Week in Monterey, California— the Audi PB18 e-tron high-performance sports car. The technical concept of the PB18 e-tron has benefitted from Audi’s many years of winning the Le Mans racing series. The experts at Audi Sport GmbH, the high-performance subsidiary of Audi, were responsible for implementation.
The abbreviated name “PB18 e-tron” refers both to the Pebble Beach venue for the premiere and to the technological DNA it shares with the successful LMP1 racing car Audi R18 e-tron.
The Audi PB18 e-tron shares its electric drive with solid-state battery with the Audi Aicon concept (earlier post) from 2017.
While the Aicon was designed as a fully automated, long-distance luxury vehicle, the creators of the PB18 e-tron designed it as a radical driving machine for the racetrack and road.
The internal working title at Audi for the showcar project was “Level Zero” as an explicit way to differentiate it from the Levels 3, 4 and 5 of autonomous driving currently in focus at Audi. In the Audi PB18 e-tron, the driver is the one steering and stepping on the gas or brake pedal. There are therefore no complex systems for piloted driving on board and no comfort features to add weight.
In their place are a driver’s seat and cockpit that are integrated into an inner monocoque shell that can be slid laterally. When driven solo, the monocoque can be positioned in the center of the interior as in a monoposto—the perfect location for the racetrack. This is made possible not least by the by-wire design of the steering and pedals; a mechanical connection of the control elements is not needed.
We want to offer the driver an experience that is otherwise available only in a racing car like the Audi R18. That’s why we developed the interior around the ideal driver’s position in the center. Nevertheless, our aim was to also give the PB18 e-tron a high degree of everyday usability, not just for the driver, but also for a potential passenger.—Gael Buzyn, Head of the Audi Design Loft in Malibu
When the driver’s monocoque is slid into the side position, from where the PB18 e-tron can be steered in everyday driving like a conventional road vehicle, there is room for a passenger. An additional seat can be accessed on the other side, integrated low above the ground and equipped with a three-point seatbelt.
The driver also benefits when getting in and out from the easily accessible outside position of the monocoque, which can be moved when the door is open up to the sill.
The Audi PB18 e-tron package follows the traditional architecture of a mid-engine sports car with a cab that is positioned far forward. The car’s center of gravity is located behind the seats and in front of the rear axle—which benefits the driving dynamics. This does not involve the engine-transmission unit, as in a car with a conventional drive system, but rather the battery pack.
A mix of aluminum, carbon and multi-material composites ensures the body of the Audi PB18 e-tron has a low basic weight. Due to the innovative and comparatively light solid-state battery, a total weight of less than 1,550 kg (3,417.2 lbs) can be expected.
The PB18 e-tron is 4.53 meters long, 2 meters wide and just 1.15 meters tall (14.5 x 6.4 x 4.6 ft); these dimensions alone speak of a classical sports car. The wheelbase is 2.70 meters (8.9 ft) and the overhangs are compact. The gently sloping roof line is pulled far to the back and features massive C-pillars.
Together with the large and almost vertical rear window, this design is reminiscent of a shooting brake concept—the synthesis of a coupé with the rear of a station wagon. The result is not only a distinctive silhouette but also, with 470 liters (16.6 cubic ft), a clear bonus in terms of cargo space—usually a deficit in sports cars.
The concept uses three electric motors: one up front and two in the rear. The latter are centrally located between the steering knuckles, each directly driving one wheel via half-shafts. They deliver power output of up to 150 kW to the front axle and 350 kW to the rear. Maximum output is 500 kW, with boosting, the driver can temporarily mobilize up to 570 kW.
The combined torque of up to 830 N·m (612.2 lb-ft) allows acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h (62.1 mph) in scarcely more than 2 seconds—a speed that differs only marginally from that of a current LMP1 prototype.
In normal road traffic, the driver can limit the maximum speed in favor of range. This limitation is easy to deactivate on the racetrack and can be adapted to local conditions.
The focus is on not just powerful performance but also maximum efficiency. While being driven, the Audi PB18 e-tron recovers large amounts of energy: up to moderate braking, the electric motors are solely responsible for decelerating the vehicle. The hydraulic brakes only come into play for heavy braking.
The concept of separate electric motors on the rear axle offers major advantages when it comes to sporty handling.
The Torque Control Manager, which works together with the Electronic Stabilization Control (ESC), actively distributes the power to the wheels of the front and rear axles as needed. This torque control provides for maximum dynamics and stability. Thanks to the virtually instantaneous response of the electric motors, the control actions are lightning-quick. The drive concept of the Audi PB18 e-tron adapts perfectly to every situation, whether involving transverse or longitudinal dynamics.
The liquid-cooled solid-state battery has an energy capacity of 95 kWh. A full charge provides for a range of more than 500 kilometers (310.7 miles) in the WLTP cycle. The Audi PB18 e-tron is already designed for charging with a voltage of 800 volts. This means the battery can be fully recharged in about 15 minutes.
The Audi PB18 e-tron can also be charged cordlessly via induction with Audi Wireless Charging (AWC). This is done by placing a charging pad with integral coil on the floor where the car is to be parked, and connecting it to the power supply. The alternating magnetic field induces an alternating voltage in the secondary coil fitted in the floor of the car, across the air gap.
The front and rear have independent suspension on lower and upper transverse control arms, and, as commonly found in motor racing, a push-rod system on the front axle and pull-rod system on the rear—in both cases with adaptive magnetic ride shock absorbers. The suspension of the Audi R18 e-tron quattro Le Mans racing car served as the model for the basic architecture.
The wheels measure 22 inches in diameter and are fitted with 275/35 tires in the front and 315/30 in the back. Large carbon brake discs with a 19-inch diameter, in conjunction with the electric brake, safely and steadily decelerate the Audi PB18 e-tron even in tough racetrack conditions.