Audi's electric PB18 e-tron supercar burst out from under the covers at Laguna Seca Racetrack in Monterey overnight, with the concept electric stunner teasing a new all-electric SUV coming in September.
The PB18 e-tron follows another electric concept, the Audi Aicon, which debuted in 2017. But where that one was designed as a fully automated, long-distance luxury vehicle, like a self-flying business jet for the road, the PB18 e-tron is supposed to be a radical machine for the racetrack.
“We want to offer the driver an experience that is otherwise available only in a racing car like the Audi R18—that’s why we developed the interior around the ideal driver’s position in the center,” said Gael Buzyn, who is head of the Audi Design Loft in Malibu, where the car was developed.
“But our aim was to also give the PB18 e-tron a high degree of everyday usability, not just for the driver, but also for a potential passenger.”
It’s largely a design exercise, meant to precede the debut of something much more practical in the Audi e-tron SUV, the company’s first production-ready pure-electric vehicle. That car will debut next month in San Francisco, and will compete directly with Jaguar’s excellent I Pace and Tesla’s Model X.
In the meantime, the futuristic PB 18 e-tron will produce plenty of hype. It is broad and flat-looking, tested in high-intensity wind tunnels to emulate the conditions of the Le Mans endurance race, with the dimensions of a classic sports car.
The side windows angle inwards, with extremely extended arches over 22-inch wheels and 19-inch carbon brakes.
While it's meant to be driven mostly on the track, it can be useable on the street.
The driver’s seat and cockpit are movable, integrated into an inner monocoque shell that can be slid sideways.
When driven solo, the monocoque can be positioned in the center of the car – the perfect location for the racetrack.
Otherwise the driver’s seat slides over to make room for a passenger.
Across the rear, a flat red band of lights extends across the entire width car to underscore the horizontal orientation of the body. A rear diffuser air outlet has been raised high but can be moved downward mechanically to increase downforce. The rear spoiler an be extended outward for the same purpose.
The PB 18 e-tron also likely serves as a preview, too, for a new electric supercar that Audi could gin up – either as a new member of the R8 line or as a replacement for the aging R8 family altogether.
Under the hood and the body, it has three powerful electric motors - one up front and two in the rear. The latter two deliver power output of up to 150 kW to the front axle and 450 kW to the rear, with max output at 500 kW, and with boosting, the driver can temporarily access up to 570 kW. Audi says 0 to 100 km/h will take just over 2 seconds.
What’s more, the driving style and speed of the car can be toned down in favor of range. Total range on a full charge is 500km; complete charging on an 800-volt charger takes 15 minutes. That is significantly faster than electric cars currently on the road today.
But don’t hold your breath. Executives from Audi would not confirm that it will go into production anytime soon, or ever.