Plug-in hybrids attempt to offer the best of both worlds. Combining some electric range with a conventional petrol or diesel engine allows all of the electric range to be used without any fear, whilst the fuel tank is big enough for ‘normal’ range if you can’t plug in for some time.
The A3 e-tron combines a 1.4 TFSI petrol engine with an 8.8 kW/h lithium ion battery pack which means an official electric range of 29 miles with a theoretical 556 miles available from the 40-litre petrol tank. That means that Audi reckons the A3 will manage 62 mpg when running on petrol and it will use 114 Wh/km of electricity when using battery power, both of which are very good results. Audi has paid particular attention to battery longevity and only uses around 70% of the battery capacity which should guarantee excellent battery life.
The official tests for plug-in hybrids lead to strange fuel economy results which can make it hard for buyers to compare, so we’ve tried the e-tron for you. We managed around 15 – 22 miles in electric mode, so if your regular routine involves journeys of around 15 miles between potential plug-ins you could easily cover it all without using a drop of petrol. For reference a 15 mile electric range is approximately 89 g/km whilst 22 miles is approx. 61 g/km.
If you regularly travel further it’s useful to know that on petrol power alone we averaged 46mpg (142g/km) and in a week of mixed urban and motorway with at least one charge each day we achieved 58.4mpg (112g/km). For a fast 5-door premium hatch this is a very good real world result.
The A3 is efficient in real world use and has enough electric range for average everyday use. However carrying around two powertrains does have some drawbacks. In this case it adds around 335kg of weight, reduces boot space to a supermini-rivalling 280 litres, takes 10 litres of the fuel tank and adds around 25% to the price compared to a convention 1.4 TFSI of similar spec.
There is no escaping the fact that the e-tron is pricey but it offers very good performance, the joy of instant electric torque, and with the batteries charged, brilliant refinement and a useable range which genuinely could allow daily trips to be completed on electric power, which is great news for local air quality and for the owner’s pocket.
Estimated real world range: 15 – 22 miles
Official range: 29 miles (electric); 556 miles (petrol)
Official electricity consumption: 114 Wh/km
Battery pack: 8.8 kWh lithium ion pack (6.2 kWh usable)
Recharge time: 240V 4 hours; 3.7 kW fast charge 2 hours 15 minutes
Please note that CO2 emissions quoted for electric cars are not directly comparable to diesel and petrol cars. This is because CO2 emissions quoted are calculated by Green Car Guide and include the emissions created at the power station turning fuel (e.g. gas etc) into electricity and in transmitting and distributing the electricity to an end user. They do not include the actual production of the fuel (e.g. gas extraction and refinery emissions). Petrol and diesel emissions are supplied by car manufacturers and are based solely on the fuel burnt in the engine (tailpipe emissions) and do not include the production of the fuel or distribution to a fuel station. In practice this means that electric car emissions are over-estimated relative to petrol and diesel. For instance if an electric car, a petrol car, and a diesel car are all reported to emit 100 g/km CO2, the electric car actually has lower emissions.