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Audi A1 e-tron: Rotary hybrid

Audi's new A1 might be chasing the Mini, but the e-tron version, should it make production, will be after the Chevy Volt's scalp.

Derek Fung
Derek loves nothing more than punching a remote location into a GPS, queuing up some music and heading out on a long drive, so it's a good thing he's in charge of CNET Australia's Car Tech channel.
Wayne Cunningham Managing Editor / Roadshow
Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET's Roadshow. Prior to the automotive beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine.
Derek Fung
Wayne Cunningham
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e-tron Mark III

Audi's new A1 might be chasing the Mini, but the e-tron version, should it make production, will be after the Chevy Volt's scalp.

Unlike the first e-tron, which featured four electric motors, one for each wheel, and the second e-tron concept, which had two, one for each rear wheel, the A1 e-tron features a petrol engine, albeit one whose sole purpose is to keep the car's battery pack topped up.

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Underneath the skin

The A1 e-tron's electric motor takes pride of place at the front of the car. The electric motor drives the front wheels and is powered by a Lithium-ion battery pack underneath the rear seats. In an arrangement similar to the Chevy Volt, there's a petrol engine, dubbed a range extender, to keep the batteries topped up. Unlike the Volt, though, the petrol engine sits at the rear of car, below the boot floor.

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3 of 11 Wayne Cunningham/CNET

Rotary power

Even more intriguingly, the A1 e-tron's range extender engine is a single rotor Wankel engine (pictured above). After a blaze of glory in the 1960's, only one auto maker, Mazda, has persisted with this type of engine. Today it can be found powering the RX-8 sports car.

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Extended-range electric vehicle

Like Chevy's Volt, the A1 e-tron's electric motor is the only engine driving the wheels. After a full charge, it can power the A1 for up to 50 kilometres without help from the rotary petrol engine.

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Home on the range

The range-extending rotary engine generates 15kW and with the 12L fuel tank full, the petrol engine can top up the batteries for 200km, giving a total range of 250km.

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Keeping up with the Joneses

The electric motor generates up to 75kW of power, and can propel the A1 e-tron from zero to 100km/h in 10.2 seconds and a top speed of over 130km/h.

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Fuel consumption

According to Audi, the A1's e-tron's fuel consumption will be rated at 1.9L/100km based on the current draft standard for range-extended hybrid electric vehicles.

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A weighty affair

The Lithium-ion battery pack weighs about 150kg and takes three hours to recharge. Despite housing two engines, a fuel tank and a battery pack, the A1 weighs a respectable 1190kg.

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No choice

The electric motor drives the front wheels via a single speed transmission. That's why the gear lever has just three options: Drive, Reverse and Neutral.

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Mini chaser

Audi has been priming the public for its Polo/Yaris-sized luxury city car for a while now, rolling out tonnes of sketches, as well as street art (above). The Mini-chasing A1 will soon go on sale in Europe with a variety of conventional petrol and diesel engines.

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11 of 11 Wayne Cunningham/CNET

Interior tech

The navigation screen and interface controls in the e-tron look the same as in the standard A1, suggesting the same cabin tech. However, the e-tron uses an electronic display for its instrument cluster.

The navigation system comes with a 60GB hard drive and has detailed 3D topographic maps. Of the 60GB of hard drive space, 20GB can be used to store music. The available Bose audio system uses a 10-channel 465-Watt amp powering 14 speakers, which should equal a lot of sound for a small space.

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