Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired Audi Recalls Some E-Tron SUVs Over a Battery Issue

Hexbyte Tech News Wired Audi Recalls Some E-Tron SUVs Over a Battery Issue

Hexbyte Tech News Wired

Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired

A faulty grommet seal could allow moisture to seep into the battery of the Audi E-Tron, potentially causing a fire.

AUDI

Audi has voluntarily recalled some of its first electric vehicles over battery issues that could cause fires, though none have yet been reported. The recall affects 1,644 E-Tron electric SUVs, only 540 of which have made it to customers. The German automaker declined to disclose sales figures for the Tesla challenger, but said in April that 20,000 had made advance reservations for the E-tron.

Aarian Marshall covers autonomous vehicles, transportation policy, and urban planning for WIRED.

According to Audi, the problem stems from a faulty grommet seal, which sits in the vehicle’s wiring harness between the charge port and the battery. In at least five vehicles sold worldwide, the grommet has allowed moisture to seep into the battery, risking a short circuit or even a fire. (Neither actually happened.) The E-tron system monitors the battery for moisture, and Audi says a yellow battery warning light should appear if the vehicle’s sensors find something has gone wrong inside.

Recalls, and especially voluntary recalls, are far from unusual: More than 42.6 million vehicles were affected by 899 recalls in 2017. At least 12 electric vehicles have been subject to some kind of recall, though not all concerned the vehicles’ batteries.

Recent well-publicized battery fires in Tesla and NIO electric vehicles have stoked fears about fire risks, even though assessments have suggested that EVs have a comparable or even smaller risk of accidental fire than their gasoline- or diesel-powered cousins. A 2017 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found the lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles contain or produce chemicals that can, under very specific conditions, become toxic or cause fires. The US agency recommended manufacturers continue to collaborate and share information on how to safely make and use vehicle batteries.

Last month, Tesla pushed an over-the-air update to the software that manages battery charging and thermal controls in its Model X and S vehicles. The electric automaker told The Verge it updated its software “out of an abundance of caution.”

Audi, meanwhile, will continue to sell and deliver E-trons as it works to resolve its battery issue in the affected vehicles. It says it should know exactly how to repair the issue—and whether the fix is a quick tweak of a replacement of the entire E-tron wiring harness—in six to eight weeks. If affected E-tron owners don’t want to get their vehicles fixed or replaced, the automaker urges them to watch for that yellow warning light; if it comes on, drivers should immediately pull over into an open space and call roadside assistance. Those who opt to have their E-trons repaired will get a loaner vehicle, an $800 cash card, and a free maintenance package.

Audi has poured plenty of money and marketing firepower (sorry) into the E-tron, its entree into the suddenly crowded premium electric SUV market. There’s the Model X, of course, but also the Jaguar I-Pace, and the forthcoming Mercedes-Benz EQC. Porsche has reportedly put its crossover Mission E Cross Turismo concept into production. There have never been as many opportunities to schlep a lot of crud inside an electric vehicle as there are right now. Just watch for those warning lights.


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Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired Audi’s E-tron GT Brings Battery Power to a Speedy, Svelte Sedan

Hexbyte Tech News Wired Audi’s E-tron GT Brings Battery Power to a Speedy, Svelte Sedan

Hexbyte Tech News Wired

The twin truths of America’s auto future are: there will be trucks, and there will be electrics. Audi has already gone all in with its E-tron SUV, but now it’s also going half heretic and hoping to prove that, no matter what GM thinks, Americans still have a place in their driveways for sedans. At least, sporty, imported, electric ones.

On Monday night the German car company gave journalists, dealers, and assorted bigwigs a preview of its new halo electric car. Robert Downey, Jr. was on hand—in a suit and pink high-tops—to pull back the cover as classic Kraftwerk pounded from speakers. (Iron Man and Audi have a relationship going back to the product placement of the R8 in the first movie.)

The Audi E-tron GT concept is a four-door Gran Turismo (shouldn’t it be großer tourer?), set to go into production in 2020. The car is low, wide, and long, with a sloping roof reminiscent of the A7, the loveliest of Audi’s sedans. The most distinctive parts of the design are heavy rear haunches, like a muscle car, and a deeply carved sill, running under the doors between the wheels. This is the intentionally noticeable home of the battery, which Audi calls the car’s “energy center.” Other quirks that may not make it to production include glowing touch-sensitive buttons instead of door handles, huge wheels that look a little like the aero design on Tesla’s Model 3, so could help with range, and a retro-cool illuminated red E-tron badge in the rear bumper.

Despite the presence of that big battery, the car is two inches lower than the A7, says Audi design chief Marc Lichte. “We developed a smart battery with different heights,” he says. More of the bulk has been shifted to under the seats, with carve outs for footwells, instead of the standard, flat “skateboard” design.

Up front, the honeycomb grille stretches horizontally, in contrast to the more vertical grille on the E-tron SUV. The top half of the grill is closed off. “It’s not a radiator any more, it’s just a surface with sensors underneath,” Lichte says. There are still large air inlets to cool the battery and brakes, and also reduce turbulent airflow to make the vehicle more aerodynamic. Animated headlights create a pulsed wave of light when the driver approaches the car, which Audi says will make it into production sometime (but maybe don’t hold your breath in the US). At the back, the single red light strip seems to fracture and spread at the edges to form the rear lights, that have a little hint of Ford Mustang to them.

The GT concept is the third car in Audi’s E-tron range. The SUV hit the market this year. The Sportback is more of a practical, halfway point, for someone who needs the practicality of an SUV but craves the flash of a coupe. The GT is based on the same platform as the long-teased (VW sibling) Porsche Taycan, so the performance figures are what’s really interesting.

The GT will develop 590 horsepower from two electric motors, one front, one back, making it all wheel drive, or quattro. Audi says it’ll do 0 to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds, with a limited top speed of 149 mph. And it should be able to do that sprint over and over again with no drop in performance—a criticism of some earlier electrics like the Tesla Model S—because of its heavy duty cooling.

The battery is a 90-kWh pack, which Audi says will provide 248 miles of range, per the European testing cycle. Expect the number to drop on the official US EPA test. That’s on par with other luxury EVs like the Jaguar I-Pace, and Mercedes EQC, but those are big, tall SUVs. The similarly low and sleek Tesla Model S gets 315 miles out of its 100-kWh pack.

Like the Porsche Taycan, the E-tron GT will have an 800-volt battery system. That makes fast charging even faster than the more typical 400 volt architecture seen in today’s EVs. Audi is claiming 20 minutes to replenish 80 percent, but that will depend on finding a charger capable of delivering that juice. Porsche is equipping its dealers with fast chargers for its customers, but no word on whether Audi is going to do the same.

Still recovering from its diesel emissions scandal, Audi’s parent company, Volkswagen, is charging into electrification. Audi says by 2025, 30 percent of its sales volume will be EVs.

Sedans may be heresy to US automakers at the moment, but Autobahn stormers still sell well in Europe and China. And if Audi and Porsche can deliver electric cars that look as pretty as their concepts, they have a chance of winning over American drivers all over again too.


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Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired Audi’s PB 18 e-tron Concept Puts the Driver in the Center

Hexbyte Tech News Wired Audi’s PB 18 e-tron Concept Puts the Driver in the Center

Hexbyte Tech News Wired

Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired

The fully electric PB 18 e-tron concept puts a modern spin on the classic shooting brake-style body, but the real goodies are on the inside.

Audi

Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired

The fully electric PB 18 e-tron concept puts a modern spin on the classic shooting brake-style body, but the real goodies are on the inside.

Audi

In the future, car seats are going to swivel. Why not? Since cars are going to drive themselves, driver and passenger may want to look away from the road and focus on one another, or even on whomever they’ve relegated to the back seat (you can finally threaten to turn this car right around without straining your neck!). It’s a concept that plenty of automakers have toyed with, but for its newly revealed concept, a fully electric two-seater, Audi is trying out a different kind of move.

In the PB 18 e-tron, revealed this week at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, the driver’s seat does not swivel. It slides. In standard mode, the cockpit (that’s the bucket seat, steering wheel, and pedals) is all the way to the left, leaving room for a passenger. But once you ditch the hanger-on and hit the “Level Zero” button on the steering wheel, the whole setup shifts slowly to the right, sliding along the bench structure that stretches the width of the cabin like a bead on an abacus. After a moment, you’re sitting dead center, the optimal position for taking a car around the track.

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