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Audi eTron Spyder Opts For Through-The-Road AWD Hybrid Drive

Convertible version tests out alternate approach to battery supercar.

by on Sep.30, 2010

The Audi eTron Spyder with CEO Rupert Stadler.

It’s been barely a year since we first got look at the innovative Audi eTron, one of the first in a wave of new battery-powered supercar concepts that have been charging out on the auto show circuit.

But the big difference between the original Audi eTron and the eTron Spyder debuting at the 2010 Paris Motor Show really isn’t the lack of a roof, it turns out.  The latest take on this battery sports car concept introduces an alternative way to power its wheels.

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Where the original eTron relied purely on lithium-ion batteries, much like a Nissan Leaf on major league steroids, the eTron Spyder opts for a plug-in hybrid powertrain, and one that adopts a novel through-the-road approach to all-wheel-drive.

One axle on the eTron Spyder is driven by the electric motors, the other axle by the TDI diesel.

The 3,196-pound convertible is powered by two electric motors drawing current from a 9.1 kilowatt-hour pack to drive the Spyder for up to 31 mph – though at speeds only up to 37 mph in electric-only mode.  If you want to push it like an Audi R8, to which it bears a strong family resemblance, you’ll need to get the 300-horsepower twin-turbo TDI V6 diesel to kick in.

As with any electric driveline, those motors make significant amounts of torque, the total for the gas-electric package coming to 479 lb-ft.

The original eTron Coupe was a pure battery-electric supercar.

What’s particularly distinctive is the decision to let the gas and electric drive systems each power a separate axle.  The approach has been called, by some, a through-the-road hybrid, since the separate powertrains are not directly linked.  It will take sophisticated electronic controllers to ensure the gas and electric systems cooperate, but “with electrification we have lots of ideas about what is possible” under the banner of the Audi Quattro system, suggests the brand’s CEO Rupert Stadler.

Since first unveiling the eTron coupe, Audi has waffled a bit about whether it will eventually get a spot in the German luxury brand’s line-up.  Noting the “very emotional” response eTron has so far generated, Stadler hesitates when asked whether a production plant will move ahead.

“We are listening to the people,” he demurs, though inside sources are suggesting that a go/no-go decision is likely to be made within the coming months, with a production eTron, if given the go, on the road within a couple more years.

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