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When Formula 1 Engines Hit The Road

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Audi is as excited as a couple expecting its first child. Named e-tron quattro, the brand’s first series-produced electric car will break cover in just a few short months. We haven’t seen it yet, let alone driven it, but we’ve just heard its heart beat for the first time. The early ultrasound reveals electrification creates a car that’s fundamentally different than the firm’s other SUVs.

Though still fully camouflaged, the SUV doesn’t look the least bit electric. Nothing about its design or overall proportions hints at gasoline teetotalism. And yet, Audi designed it as an electric car from the get-go; there won’t be a version of the e-tron quattro powered by an internal combustion engine. Not at launch, not ever. The sheet metal hides an electrified version of the MLB platform used widely across the company’s lineup. In this application, it’s built around a 1,576-pound, 95-kWh lithium-ion battery pack mounted directly under the passenger compartment, right in between the axles. It’s about the size of a mattress but – sorry, Audi– it doesn’t look nearly as comfortable to sleep on. Tempur-Pedic, this is not. It’s got other tricks up its sleeve, though.

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250 miles on a charge should be enough to meet the needs of most commuters.

Let’s dispel a myth: electric cars require cooling air. They sometimes need less of it than comparable gasoline-powered models, though it ultimately depends on the type of car and the drivetrain it uses. But, the idea that they don’t need air at all is a misconception. Just ask Audi; the company spent a great deal of resources developing an effective thermal management system, and it begins by funneling air through a grille and using it to cool a radiator. The system always maintains the battery pack between 77 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit, its optimal operating temperature. The chiller installed behind the left side of the front bumper kicks in when needed to provide additional cooling.

Significantly, Audi separated the cooling system (which is filled with a mixture of water and anti-freeze) from the battery cells to make sure they don’t end up drenched if the car rolls over. This could cause a short-circuit or, worse, a fire. The “safety first” approach led engineers add thick side beams that absorb and dissipate energy if the car gets t-boned. 35 bolts secure the battery pack to the rest of the car, and its thick aluminum housing doubles as a skid plate. It also gives the car a smooth, flat underbody that helps make it more aerodynamic.