Audi board member for technical development Ulrich Hackenberg threw his hand in the air to admit he culled the previous all-electric R8 e-tron range that was due to go into production, instead pushing his engineers to boost battery range.
“First I did agree to stop such a project,” Hackenberg tells.
“The project had to be re-engineered because the range was 220km – it was not enough.
“So what I made with the team was to continue to work on this, and we could realise between 400 and 500 [kilometres battery range]. Or something beyond 400km.”
Challenging the 460km range – not to mention performance – of the Tesla Model S is no doubt a priority for Audi, but closer to home it will also outdo the 37km electric only range of the $300,000 BMW i8.
There will be no wait it seems for an electric-only R8, however, because the second-generation supercar will replace the eight-year-old original in March this year, it has now been confirmed, with what may still be badged e-tron being shown at the same time.
“We will use the R8 as a carrier for technologies,” continues Hackenberg, who also said every new Audi must have some form of electrification from now on, starting with the Q7, R8 and next A8.
“That [e-tron] will be introduced with the successor of the R8, and we will have first example of the car … in next March, at Geneva, so you will see, it’s done.
“Now this technology I think is a technology that is say for a car that is a supercar, a sporty car, not for a big number of cars and for big number of customers… I think yes, there is a market.
“Here we are working on a car which is able to go around 500 or maybe a little more kilometres range, that will be a fully electric car.”
While Hackenberg acknowledges the presence of Tesla and its ability to shake up the electric car market, he doesn’t see the upstart as competing with Audi on a broader, global scale.
“It’s an interesting company that is concentrating on a very specific kind of or cluster of mobility,” he says of the US brand led by Elon Musk.
“The big difference is firstly it is a very young brand, and is maybe not working on the know-how or the history [of other brands]. But the team has placed together in a good way and they make interesting cars.
“They are concentrating on electric-driven cars – we are covering all kind of cars, so we have diesel, petrol or gasoline, plug-in hybrids, fully electric and we will have hydrogen soon.”
Meanwhile petrol versions of the next R8 are now confirmed to be auto-only, with Audi ditching the ‘H gate’ manual of the outgoing supercar.
“Actually I don’t think so,” says Hackenberg to the question of whether there will be a manual in new R8.
“Double-clutch gearboxes are extremely sporty, and if you want to drive extremely sporty and fast, for the record of your personal lap time, you will need a double-clutch.”