Audi is to launch a range of new plug-in hybrid electric models in the UK including the A7 Sportback TFSI e quattro, Q7 TFSI e quattro, A8 TFSI e quattro and A6 Saloon TFSI e quattro.
At the end of this year, Audi will put its third all-electric model, the e-tron GT, into production.
There will shortly be a number of new plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) – the A7 Sportback TFSI e quattro, Q7 TFSI e quattro, A8 TFSI e quattro and, later in the year, the A6 TFSI e quattro – arriving in the UK to join the Audi Q5 TFSI e quattro.
The TFSI e badge refers to the turbocharged petrol engine and the electric motor that supports the petrol engine and can also power the car in pure electric mode.
The electric motor is driven by a lithium-ion battery hidden under the boot floor, which drivers can recharge by plugging in at home, at work or at a roadside charging point.
Despite PHEVs only coming to market over recent years, Audi built its first petrol-electric hybrid car more than 30 years ago. The Audi Duo experimental vehicle was created in 1989, and was on display at the following year’s Geneva Motor Show.
Based on the 100 Avant, the Duo’s 2.3-litre, five-cylinder petrol engine sent 136PS to the front wheels. At the same time, a nickel-cadmium battery mounted underneath the boot floor powered a 9kW (12.6PS) Siemens electric motor that drove the rear axle. Audi also experimented with a solar-panel roof for the vehicle to help charge the batteries.
The Duo Audi had an electric driving range of up to 24 miles but the driver had to put the transmission into neutral and press the ‘E’ button on the dashboard to engage electric mode.
The Duo could reach 31mph before the petrol engine needed to take over. In slippery conditions, where all-wheel drive was required to pull away, both power sources worked in tandem. And, despite being built some three decades ago, the Duo included a regenerative braking system, with kinetic energy utilised to charge the battery pack when the brakes were applied.
Created using a completely standard 100 Avant, the Duo also benefited from the production car’s aerodynamic fastback-style body, resulting in an incredibly low aerodynamic drag coefficient that helped the vehicle cut through the air more effectively.
Today, Audi PHEVs such as the A7 Sportback 55 TFSI e quattro offer three driving modes. Hybrid mode – which is the default when route guidance is active – enables the system to select the most efficient solution automatically, be that fully electric, petrol power on its own, or a combination of both. In EV (Electric Vehicle) mode, the car relies purely on electric power unless the accelerator is pressed purposefully, in which case the engine instantly fires back into life. Finally, in Battery Hold mode, the battery charge is preserved at its existing level.
The Audi A7 Sportback 55 TFSI e quattro produces 367PS and 500Nm of pulling power when the TFSI engine and the electric motor work in tandem.
With power transferred to the road through a double-clutch seven-speed S tronic transmission and quattro all-wheel drive, the hybrid A7 is capable of sprinting from 0-62mph in just 5.6 seconds and reaching 155mph. In electric-only mode, it can travel for more than 24.9 miles and reach speeds of up to 83.9mph.
Technology such as predictive efficiency assist (PEA) and predictive operating strategy (PBS) ensure optimum use of the battery’s charge. Different aspects of the journey, including roundabouts, hills, speed limits and traffic further along the route ahead are taken into account to ensure the correct driving mode for each situation. This enables the final urban stretch of a chosen course to be driven electrically, during which the car produces no emissions.
Using a connection with an output of 7.4kW, such as a home wall box or a roadside charger in town, the charging time takes two-and-a-half hours. Using the myAudi smartphone app, drivers can check the battery and range status remotely, as well as starting and monitoring the charging process.
Back in 1989, only ten examples of the original Duo were built. The cars were trialled in pilot programmes – including use as a taxi in the historic centre of Ingolstadt – but were never put into full production, and an example now resides in the Audi Museum.
However, Audi continued to explore hybrid technology, and a second version of the Duo based on the Audi 100 Avant arrived in 1991.
Six years after that, Audi became the first European car manufacturer to introduce a limited-edition production PHEV. Also named Duo, it was based on an A4 Avant. It featured a drivetrain incorporating a 90PS 1.9-litre turbodiesel engine and a 29PS water-cooled electric motor, powered by a lead gelatin battery mounted in the rear of the car. Both the engine and the electric motor were used to power the front wheels.
As with the earlier Audi hybrid studies, the production Duo featured plug-in charging, and its electric motor could also recuperate energy during deceleration. In electric mode, the A4 Avant Duo could reach 50mph, and 106mph using TDI power. Ultimately the car proved to be too far ahead of its time, and the market wasn’t ready for it.