The powerful, fully electric e-tron vehicle range from Audi offers everything from vegan leather upholstery to holographic displays. But is the world ready to support the revolution? Olivia Palamountain takes a test drive through Scotland.
I’ve had a soft spot for Audi since my first love sped me through Europe in his ascari blue A3 (swooning). But just as my co-pilots have “developed” over the years, so has the brand.
Today Audi is at the forefront of the electric vehicle (EV) revolution: its first fully electric sports cars, the e-tron GT and RS e-tron GT (plus an SUV, the Q4 e-tron), were launched this spring Critical praise, with four- and five-star ratings across the board.
But while the experts are impressed with the latest electric vehicles, is anyone actually buying them? According to the latest forecast by investment bank UBS, 20 percent of all new cars sold worldwide will be electric by 2025. This number will increase to 40 percent by 2030; By 2040, practically every new car sold worldwide will be electric.As optimistic as these numbers sound, UBS can’t be far from it because even the most determined petrolhead has to get glittery.
Why? As Neil Winton writes in Forbes, “The bottom line here is really a one-way bet. Electric cars will succeed sooner or later because governments will make it impossible for consumers to buy traditional cars. “
The regulations are already in place: Norway will ban the sale of all fossil fuel-based cars by 2025; The UK will follow suit through 2030, with hybrids joining the list in 2035.
Some countries are offering financial incentives to support the sale of electric vehicles – Germany is currently sweetening the deal with a grant of around £ 8,000. With the Audi e-tron range starting at £ 79,000 for a very basic model, it is probably worth moving to Germany if you want to invest.
So, apart from zero emissions, what is special about this new GT sports car? Ultra-fast, low and wide, these mean machines make really sexy, only this time served with a serious side of sustainability.
I tend to directly skip how cars make me feel rather than reflecting the geeky details, but in this case the fine print is both important and interesting. But we’ll stick to softcore, I promise.Yes, the e-tron series includes immediately available acceleration power and concise handling as well as exceptional travel comfort and sophisticated infotainment – but also in an optional leather-free design package. Stella McCartney eat your (vegan) heart out!
The model I drove was the e-tron GT with upholstery in a combination of synthetic leather and cascade, a new material made with a proportion of recycled materials such as polyester fibers from old plastic bottles, textiles or residual fibers from selvedges.
Dinamica, a microfiber material made from recycled fibers, has also been incorporated into the design of the entire center console and the upper areas of the door inserts as well as the upper area of the instrument cluster.
In both nappa leather and vegan leather, the floor carpets and floor mats are made of Econyl, a clean material made from 100 percent recycled nylon fibers from production waste, fabric and carpet scraps – or even old fishing nets.
The smell of supple leather in the car is nostalgic for many people, but I’m happy to report that the vegan version is just as seductive. It’s not just the smell inside the e-tron that inspires me, the look and feel of this beast also have it all.
Both futuristic and luxurious, I feel like absolute dog shit in the brave new world of Audi. High-tech features such as the massive infotainment screen and the customizable digital dashboard stand alongside traditional elements that are unmistakably Audi and give the experience a little heaviness.Starting up the e-tron GT is familiar and new at the same time. Instead of the throaty roar I associate with most supercars – the one that announces to the world you mean business – the e-trons keyless go attacks like a silent ninja.
There is very little noise, and the surreally surreal, whirring, purring noise that is audible is entirely synthetic, digital signatures, composed by Audi engineers Rudolf Halbmeir and Stephan Gsell. Electric cars need sound to signal their presence to pedestrians and to give the drivers a feeling of familiarity: the way the voice of the e-tron GT was brought to life is extraordinary.
“In principle, the sound of a car has a lot in common with music,” says Rudolf Halbmeir. The Audi sound designer is a committed musician who writes songs in his free time and plays all the instruments himself in his private recording studio.
“To the basis for the sound of the e-tron GT I tried all kinds of instruments, from the violin to the electric guitar to the didgeridoo. But none of them were really suitable.
“Then I came across a piece of plastic pipe that was lying in the garden, it was three meters long and had a cross-section of 80 millimeters. I put a fan on one end and listened to the noise on the other end. It was a very specific, deep growl – and I knew immediately that I had discovered the foundation of the sound. “
A sample of 32 sounds was then developed from this, including a processed synthesizer, the sound of a cordless screwdriver and recordings of a model helicopter.This car just keeps delivering on the endless Scottish road. Two full electric motors drive the Audi e-tron GT: The acceleration is amazing (in a positive sense) and you fly from 60 km / h to 100 km / h as fast and efficiently as a bullet. Everything about this ride is silky smooth, and without the acceleration drag of the gasoline engine, it’s easy to go much faster than intended.
Sophisticated devices are everywhere. At some point I turned on all three navigation systems at the same time: one in the center screen, one in the dashboard, and a science fiction hologram floating in the windshield at eye level. The latter buzzes in my head like a hangover, distracting the focus from the road and making me regret my breakfast.
I would love to drive the full 252 miles on the high voltage battery, complacent in the knowledge that my trip is both efficient and completely C0₂ free. But despite this impressive range, it’s essential charging that is a potential pitfall in accelerating the EV revolution.
At the moment, charging points are sporadic, of varying efficiency and cost, and are not always maintained on the wall. In addition, unlike petrol stations, in the vast majority of cases you cannot simply park and recharge.
Other complications are far-reaching and include brand-specific restricted network use (Tesla is the leader), complex fees (some charging points and networks charge per minute instead of kWh) and no standardized sockets.
When you consider that we are supposed to be all-electric by 2035, this is worrying. But in such a cool car, I think we just enjoy the ride.