In a time when many automakers are trying to design the human element out of their vehicles, Audi has just done the opposite and revealed a concept car that puts the driver firmly back in charge of proceedings. Unveiled to the world at the Pebble Beach Automotive Week in Monterey, California, the PB18 e-Tron presents a peek into the future of sports cars from the German manufacturer.
Standing 4.53m long, 2.0m wide and just 1.15m tall, the futuristic-looking PB18 e-Tron runs purely on electricity and combines three powerful electric motors—one up front and two at the rear—with a 95kWh liquid-cooled solid-state battery to create one formidable all-wheel-drive supercar. The total power output is 670hp, which can be temporarily boosted to 764hp if the driver feels the need for some extra speed. Audi claims a 0-100km/h time of around two seconds, and while the company remains mum on the top speed, the press release does point out that the car features the same laser high-beam headlights as the ones used on the Le Mans R18 racer—and that the high output of said lights provides additional safety to drivers at speeds above 300km/h.
Charging the battery takes as little as 15 minutes if an 800V system is used, and will give the latest e-Tron family member a range of up to 500km. It even supports wireless charging via induction, a technology that is already widely used in mobile phones but has yet to catch on with electric cars. Maybe this is yet another hint of what is to come in Audi production vehicles of the near future. Juice is also being added to the battery when the car is decelerating, with the electric motors doubling as brakes under normal to moderate braking (the hydraulic brakes will only kick in when the driver really stomps on the pedal).
The cabin contains another clever feature of this showstopper in the form of a movable driver seat and cockpit that can slide sideways within the inner monocoque shell. When driving solo on a racetrack, for example, the driver can sit in the middle of the car for perfect visibility. Once done, the whole setup can be moved to the left, creating space for a passenger on the right-hand side. This unusual cabin layout is made possible through the use of drive-by-wire design for steering and pedals, meaning there are no mechanical connections anymore.
Despite all the high technology in this car—including the ample use of aluminum, carbon and multi-material composites to keep the weight down to just 1,550kg—there is one thing you’d be looking for in vain in this electric missile: autonomous driving systems. Where production cars like the new A8 can literally drive on their own already, engineers deliberately left out any such features in the PB18 e-Tron. The aim was to put the driver fully in charge, a goal that is sure to sound like music to the ears of many car enthusiasts. This shiny supercar is designed to perform on both road and track, while giving the driver almost the same experience as one would have piloting the famous Le Mans racing cars. It’s a hardcore, no-nonsense, electric kick up your butt that requires manual taming and uses a ton of technology taken straight from the brand’s motorsport department.
The stunning design, with its huge front opening, assertive lines and broad shoulders, gives hints of what we can expect to see in future Audis and boldly reinterprets the concept of a mid-engined sports car. The battery now takes pride of place where an engine would otherwise be. You may even take some luggage on tour with you, as the space-saving layout means the PB18 has room for 470L of cargo. This may just be a concept car for now, but it’s a particularly stunning one. And if it’s an indication of how next-generation models from Ingolstadt will look and perform, then we challenge Audi to bring it on.