Little electronics, much performance for Audi’s Showcar PB18 e-tron

Little electronics, much performance for Audi’s Showcar PB18 e-tron

Technology News |
By Christoph Hammerschmidt

In favour of dynamics, propulsion and lateral acceleration, the Audi engineers dispensed with much that makes driving life pleasant and safe. The PB18 e-tron does not have any complex systems for piloted driving – for this reason the Audi internal development project was called “Level Zero” – in contrast to the various levels 2 to 5 of autonomous driving. The driver therefore still has to do everything himself – no cruise control, no assistance system makes driving easier. Audi has also dispensed with comfort systems – for weight reasons.

The PB18 e-tron with three electric motors (one front, two rear) shoots to a speed of 100 kmph (62,5 mph) in just over two seconds; the liquid-cooled solid-state battery with its capacity of 95 kWh gives the car a range of 500 km in the demanding WLTP cycle. The manufacturer does not disclose the maximum speed; however, it can be assumed that the specified range cannot be achieved at speeds anywhere close to Vmax.

After all, Audi lets you know so much about the powertrain: The two rear motors drive one wheel each via half-shafts. An output of 150 kW is available on the front axle and 350 kW on the rear axle. The maximum total output is 500 kW; during boosting there are even 570 kW available. In order to increase the efficiency of the system, the PB18 e-tron has been designed in such a way that only the three electric motors are used for braking down to medium deceleration values. In this way, the vehicle recovers a comparatively high amount of kinetic energy and converts it into electrical energy. The hydraulic brake is not activated until the brake pedal is pressed really hard.

This brings us to the electronics that Audi did not want to do without completely. The entire car is designed according to the X-by-wire principle; in addition to the accelerator and brake pedals, the steering wheel also transmits its instructions to the respective actuators via electronic pulses. A mechanical steering system has been saved; the steering of the front wheels is electronically controlled. In addition, there is a Torque Control Manager which cooperates with the Electronic Stability Control ESC and distributes the torque to the wheels of the front and rear axle as required.

The PB18 e-tron is designed for charging at 800 V so that the pauses for recharging the battery are not too long. According to Audi, the battery can be fully recharged in about 15 minutes. In addition, the vehicle has a device for wireless charging via induction coil.

The show car is equipped with lighting units in Digital Matrix technology. The high beam was taken over by Audis Le Mans racing car R18: It works with laser technology because maximum light output is indispensable at speeds above 300 kmph, as Audi emphasizes.

The driver’s seat can be shifted to a center or side position. The cockpit
is implemented entirely as a drive-by-wire system. 

In the spartan interior, the driver’s seat can be pushed into the middle of the vehicle for use in racing; if there is a passenger on board, the driver’s seat can also be moved to the side so that there is room for the passenger. A transparent OLED surface is mounted in the field of vision. With the data from the navigation system and the vehicle’s electronics, the ideal line for the next bend, for example, can be recorded on it. In normal everyday traffic, the device functions like a normal head-up display and shows the driver the direction using direction arrows and similar symbols. The cockpit display is designed as a freely programmable unit and can be switched to different layouts for race track and road depending on the application scenario.

Despite all efforts to save weight, the PB18 e-tron still weighs quite a lot for a race car – it weighs just over 1500 kg. A large part of this is accounted for by the battery pack. Audi, however, does not comment on its exact weight.

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