Audi can finish its e-tron all-electric SUV for the market, but picked Pebble Beach Concours d 'Elegance to reveal a far more playful EV concept, the PB18 e-tron supercar. Promising to cut the assumption that tomorrow's electric vehicle will inevitably be at least semi-autonomous and weakly anodyne, PB18 e-throne goes completely in the opposite direction.
In fact, it is about delivering maximum electric power in the hands of a (hopefully talented) driver. Handiwork by Audi Design Studio in Malibu, California, has the new showcar concept to demonstrate that electrons can be much more exciting than hydrocarbons.
Modern it can be, but it's far, wide and low as a classic sports car. The 8.9 foot wheelbase has a large proportion of the total length of 14.5 feet, with minimal overhang. Enormous C-posts and a near-vertical rear window have the hint of a shooting brake, but also adds to a surprisingly practical 16.6 cubic meter luggage compartment. Audi has designed a custom luggage set to make the most of the room.
On the front, the Audi Singleframe grill is topped by the company name and flanked with large air intakes for brakes and electric motors. Wide, flat light uses digital matrix and laser beams. The hood has a sharp dip, which acts as an air deflector.
From the side, the asymmetric wheels have a hint of air turbine inlet, and actually help with brake disc cooling. A flat band of red light runs over the backside, and it is a high-mounted tailgate air outlet that can be moved mechanically downwards to increase the impact. Rear spoiler is fixed, but can be expanded to do the same.
Style-wise, it's not hard to see the echo of the 2017 Audi Aicon concept in the new PB18 e-throne. Both have dramatically expanded arcs and steep angled side windows; Each is meant as a full electric vehicle. By polar opposites, however, there is ethos of each car.
Where Aikon was Audi's vision of what super-luxury and autonomous driving can look like in an all-electric world, the goal of PB18 e-throne is something completely different. It is thought of as a car completely focused on the driving experience, rather than transferring the virtual wheel to a computer. In fact, the internal work title for the Level Zero project, "says Audi, is a reference to the escalating stages of driverless technology.
It means a convenient driving experience, and a paired back cabin as well. No complex driver assistant technology, and no unnecessary comfort features. Even the passenger seat can be removed, with the driver's monocoque seat and slides over so that it is centrally located.
This single-seat or monoposto design is part of a number of motorsport-inspired items, Audi says. The cabin is pushed forward, leaving the center of gravity behind the seats, but in front of the rear axle. Where a car with gaspor can be mid-engined, for PB18 e-throne is the solid-state, liquid-cooled battery pack.
The 95 kWh watches, with Audi suggesting a full charge, could deliver over 310 miles of range. 800V charging support means full charge of about 15 minutes, on the right type of charger. Audi Wireless Charging, meanwhile, would be slower, but as easy for the driver as to park the PB-18 e-throne on top of a pillow on the floor.
The battery operates three separate electric motors. One is mounted on the front, for the front axle, while the other two drive each of the rear wheels via the halves. That means up to 150 kW delivered on the front, and up to 450 kW rear, for quattro all-wheel drive. Maximum power is 500 kW, although a temporary boost mode switches to 570 kW for limited periods.
In total, you get more than 612 lb-ft with torque. Audi says that 0-62 mph is in just over 2 seconds, making the PB-18 e-throne a little slower from its LMP1 racing car.
Since the range is more likely than crowded on public roads, the driver will be able to limit EV's maximum performance. Regenerative braking is also used a lot of time – we have already seen first hand in the Audi e-tron quattro as efficiently as possible – with hydraulic brakes and 19-inch carbon plates just kicking in for more extreme brakes.
For the driver, the view is forward through a large windshield with a transparent OLED screen. Through it, they can see the perfect line through the upcoming turn on a track, or navigation and other information on public roads. Audi's Torque Control Manager works with ESC to switch power to the most suitable wheel, and since electric motors deliver topmost in the immediate vicinity, it should be significantly more responsive than a traditional gasoline car.
Independent front and rear suspension is used, with lower and upper transverse control arms. A pushbutton system on the front axle lends itself back to motorsport, and it also makes a drawbar system on the back. Each has adaptive magnetic shock absorbers. 22-inch wheels get 275/35 rubber on the front and 315/30 on the back.
True, PB18 e-throne is not ready for production in its current state. Nevertheless, Audi insists – like other all-electric concepts before it – prevents the car manufacturer's future thinking. Still in the pipeline there are several EV concepts, including something designed with city traffic in mind.
Audi's vision is how well-known drivers have access to a portfolio of cars, instead of just a few models purchased or rented in the garage. Described as "a premium sharing pool with very individual models", a subscription service will give customers access to highly focused vehicles in the way of PB18 e-thrones without living with them every day. We are not quite at that stage yet, but the idea of being able to temporarily get behind the wheel of a super fast electric supercar for a weekend on the track is definitely something we find appealing.