Text by Cheryl Tay
Photos by Adrian Wong and courtesy of Audi
I’ve always felt that electric cars would suit the Singapore cityscape well, because we are only that big and an electric car would be great for those who commute mainly from home to work, plus a few errands. It will take time before electric cars would become mainstream in Singapore but there is no stopping of carmakers from conducting their research.
With a focus on future mobility, Audi is developing drive electrification and one such product of theirs is the Audi A1 e-tron. The A1 e-tron is basically a plug-in hybrid version of the A1. It is an electric car that has a single 254cc rotary engine sitting in the back.
No, this internal combustion engine (and its little 12-litre fuel tank) does not power the car, but rather, it recharges the battery when you activate the range extender mode. The car in pure electric mode can get about 50km in urban driving conditions, but if you turn on the range extender, the 12kWh T-shaped battery will then be charged by the engine, giving the car another 200km before it needs to be refuelled.
Power is sent to the front wheels via a single-speed transmission by the electric motor, with continuous output of 61bhp and 150Nm, while peak numbers are 102bhp and 240Nm. It can accelerate from zero to 100 km/h in 10.2 seconds – which isn’t mind-blowing but hey this is an eco car – and it has a top speed of more than 130 km/h. Of course, if you are going to go at those top speeds then don’t expect to hit 50km on a single charge.
Charging time for the A1 e-tron is about three hours on a normal household socket, but just 30 minutes on a fast charge system. The socket for the standard charging plug is located behind the four rings of the Audi logo in the front grille.
I had the opportunity to spend a morning with the A1 e-tron and take it for a drive.
Meeting at the Audi Centre Singapore in Leng Kee, we drove the A1 TFSI to the Audi Technical Service Centre at the German Centre so we could get a feel of the normal petrol-engined A1 and compare it to the e-tron afterward.
Other than the A1 e-tron being left-hand drive, I thought it drove pretty similarly to the A1 TFSI, except that the A1 e-tron is swifter on its feet.
Because of the instant torque delivery, the A1 e-tron picks up speed just like that, making overtaking easy. Gears are shifted with the lever, which has three normal modes – D, R and N – and an additional one for the range extender.
I thought this range extender is a smart solution to the common fear that people have about electric cars – running out of battery. The petrol engine acts like a backup, in case you need to go beyond the 50km (based on a single charge) before getting to a recharge point. The range extender doesn’t cause any change in driving behaviour, although the cabin is not as silent as when the car is in full electric mode.
There are no gears for you to shift in the A1 e-tron, but yet there are paddle shifts mounted on the steering wheel. Strange? A little. But Audi explained that the paddle shifts are there to adjust the level of engine braking, and hence the regenerative power levels. There are five levels and at the highest, the car will slow down immediately upon lifting the accelerator pedal. It might be a bit much for some people, so leaving it somewhere in the middle would be better.
There is still a lot of work to be done before electric cars will be embraced by the driving community here, but this concept by Audi with the range extender seems like a feasible solution, especially in response to consumers’ worry about running out of range.