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201202 Mar

audi r18 e-tron quattro


Audi has developed the R18 e-tron quattro, with which it plans to contest the new FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The R18 e-tron quattro is developed on the existing R18 racing prototype, with the main difference being the addition of a flywheel-type kinetic energy recovery system. The Audi R18 e-tron quattro will make its competition debut in May, at the 6 Hours of Spa, which is part of the WEC.  

This system recovers kinetic energy under braking or when the speed of the vehicle exceeds 120 km/h, and feeds this kinetic energy to a flywheel accumulator which stores it (there is no battery). This energy is fed back under acceleration to the front wheels, giving the R18 not only extra power from low speeds, but improving front-end grip and vehicle stability as well, which is a benefit of four-wheel drive. The rear axle continues to be powered by the V6 TDI diesel engine, rated at 510 PS. Audi hasn't released any figures as to how much power the electric drive system produces, but we estimate it to provide at least another 100 PS.

With the R18 e-tron, Audi is pioneering some new concepts, namely the use of a flywheel accumulator (which the Williams F1 team was working on in 2010) and part-time four-wheel drive. However, the main difference is that in the Audi, the recovered energy is fed to the front wheels. (All-wheel drive is outlawed in Formula 1).

Since this technology is still at a nascent stage, there are bound to be some challenges. "This is a relatively short cycle for a technology that has never been tested in motorsport and which still doesn’t even exist in production," stresses Dr. Martin Mühlmeier, Head of Technology at Audi Sport. "The challenge is correspondingly big."

The drivers will face challenges too, like the balance and handling of the car as the drive shifts from all-wheel drive to rear-wheel drive. Steering effort and feedback could also likely pose a challenge, but then Audi has some of the best and most experienced endurance racing drivers in its team. Audi Sport Team Joest will field two R18 e-tron quattro and two R18 ultra prototypes in the Le Mans 24 Hours on June 16/17. The two hybrid cars are driven by last year’s winning trio Marcel Fässler (CH), André Lotterer (D) and Benoît Tréluyer (F) as well as Dindo Capello (I), Tom Kristensen (DK) and Allan McNish (GB) who boast a total of 13 Le Mans wins between them. New signing Loïc Duval (F) starts together with Timo Bernhard (D) and Romain Dumas (F) in an R18 ultra as do Marco Bonanomi (I), Oliver Jarvis (GB) and Mike Rockenfeller (D).

Such a two-pronged approach with the R18 e-tron quattro and the R18 both competing esures that the company still ensures it remains in a good position to fight for the championship, while simultaneously developing a new technology.

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