Audi has begun a trial programme in Munich for the A1 e-tron EV with the Wankel powered range extender engine. 20 A1 e-trons are taking part in the ‘Electric Mobility in Munich’ project.
If car makers are going to foist electric cars on us, the least they can do is make them as useful as the limited technology permits. And that’s what Audi are doing with the A1 e-tron EV.
The Audi A1 e-tron isn’t a daft BEV (battery electric vehicle) with a woeful range at the mercy of weather conditions, instead it’s a range extender EV with a small Wankel engine which kicks-in when the battery charge is used up to increase range.
By adding the 254cc single-pot Wankel rotary engine – which runs efficiently at a constant 5000rpm – Audi are able to give the A1 e-tron a much smaller battery pack than would be necessary if the A1 was a pure EV. That saves weight and cost but means the electric-only range is just 31 miles (probably much less if it’s wet, or dark, or cold, or hot…).
But when the batteries drain, the Wankel engine – hidden away in the boot – kicks in and delivers almost an extra 100 mile range. Which may not seem much, but that’s because Audi has given the A1 e-tron a measly 2.6 gallon fuel tank. That may be because the batteries and Wankel engine eat up space, but we’re sure Audi could increase that range by fitting a bigger tank.
But even when the Wankel engine kicks in to charge the batteries, the compact and efficient rotary engine manages to deliver almost 150mpg and emit just 45g/km. Which makes you wonder if anyone will actually bother plugging it in at all.
The electricity, whether from a plug-in charge or Wankel charge, is used to power an electric motor which can produce up to 101bhp (although that’s only for a quick blast – it actually delivers 61bhp) and up to 170lb/ft of torque (again, that’s a blat with the regular torque being a more modest 110lb/ft).
But now the theory is over and it’s time to put the A1 e-tron out in to the real world and see how it performs. So Audi has delivered up 20 A1 e-trons to the ‘Electric Mobility in Munich’ project, sponsored by the Germany Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Development, which is spending €10 million to investigate all aspects of electric mobility.
Audi’s 20 A1 e-trons are being supported by German public utility company Stadtwerke Munchen and by E.ON – providing a recharging infrastructure – and Technische Universität München (TUM) which is monitoring the project.
We’re not sure why you would need to build a recharging infrastructure when you have a range-extender engine in the A1 e-tron, but we guess Audi are expecting many city dwellers to have no access to off-road recharging at home for the overnight charge before the daily commute.
But at 150mpg on the Wankel engine, why bother?