For the first time, Audi is presenting a design and technical concept car at Pebble Beach Automotive Week in Monterey, California. The all-electric Audi PB18 e-tron presents a radical vision for the high-performance sports car of tomorrow. Broad and flat, visibly inspired by the wind tunnel and the race track, its very presence signals that it is destined to push boundaries. Its concept and exciting lines were created in the new Audi design studio in Malibu, California – where the brand’s design is consistently being updated for the future. 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 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. Not least thanks to the innovative and comparatively light solid-state battery, a total weight of less than 1,550 kg (3,417.2 lb) 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. Viewed from the side, the eye is drawn to the gently sloping roof line which 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. An exclusive luggage set customized to fit the cargo space helps to make optimum use of the luggage compartment – even if the luggage in this car frequently consists of nothing but a helmet and racing overall.
The flat red band of lights extends across the entire width of the rear and underscores the horizontal orientation of the vehicle body. The cabin, placed on the broad shoulders of the wheel arches, appears almost dainty from the rear. The rear diffuser air outlet has been raised high – another functional feature borrowed from motorsport. The diffuser can be moved downward mechanically to increase downforce. The rear spoiler, which normally is fixed, can be extended rearward for the same purpose.
The widely extended wheel arches located opposite the central cabin are noticeable from every angle. They emphasize the extremely wide track of the PB18 e-tron and thereby illustrate the lateral dynamic potential of the car and the obligatory quattro drive. The large 22-inch wheels, each with eight asymmetrically designed spokes are reminiscent of turbine inlets – together with the air inlets and outlets of the wheel arches, their rotation ensures excellent air supply to the large carbon brake discs.
The front is dominated by the familiar hexagon shape of the Single frame grille, with an emphatically wide and horizontal cut. The brand logo is placed above at the front of the hood, in the typical Audi sports car style. Large air inlets to the left and right of the Singleframe supply the necessary cooling air to the brakes and the front electric motor. Wide and flat light units with integrated digital matrix technology and laser high-beam headlights complete the face of the PB18 e-tron.
The laser high-beam headlight with its enormous range is especially emblematic of the transfer of know-how from motorsport: This technology made its debut in the Le Mans R18 racing car, where the maximum light output at speeds above 300 km/h offered a crucial safety advantage at night as well.
The Audi designers have taken a new tack for air flow through the front hood. The hood dips deeply and acts as a lateral bridge running across the nose, connecting the two emphatically accentuated fenders and also doubling as an air deflector. A design that is thoroughly familiar from racing prototypes.
At the same time, this layout offers the driver a unique quality of visibility, and not just on the race track. Looking through the large windshield from the low seating position, the driver sees precisely into the opening of the ventilated hood and onto the road, and can thus perfectly target the course and apex of the curve. Mounted within the field of vision is a transparent OLED surface. The ideal line of the next curve can be shown on it, for example, precisely controlled with data from navigation and vehicle electronics. In normal road traffic, on the other hand, the direction arrows and other symbols from the navigation system find a perfect place here in the driver’s field of vision, analogous to a head-up display.
The large-format cockpit itself is designed as a freely programmable unit and can be switched between various layouts for the racetrack or the road, depending on the scenario for use.