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Audi To Field Diesel-Electric Hybrid R18 e-tron quattro in Le Mans

POSTED BY admin ON 01 March 2012

The Audi R18 e-tron quattro will be the world’s first diesel-electric hybrid LMP1 category Le Mans racer. Despite the ‘e-tron’ monicker, the latest R18 is not all electric, but combines Audi’s multi-year Le Mans winning TDI diesel engine with a electrified hybrid drive train.

quattro permanent all-wheel drive is achieved by using the diesel TDI engine to power the rear axle while the electric motor powers the front axle.

Like all high performance motor racing derived hybrids – the principle of brake (kinetic) energy recovery differs slightly from conventional hybrid road cars.

To cope with the surge in power, a mechanical flywheel is used to store to recovered energy rather than directly into a conventional battery.

Kinetic energy is recovered from the front axle during the braking, which is then fed into a flywheel accumulator before being retrieved under acceleration again at speeds of above 120 km/h. During this procedure only the front axle is integrated. The V6 TDI power plant producing 375 kW (510 hp) continues to transmit its power to the rear wheels. Both systems complement each other to create the new drive principle e-tron quattro.

Audi says the e-tron quattro for motorsport project started in February 2010. Only 18 months passed from the initial conceptual ideas to the first test. “This is a relatively short cycle for a technology that has never been tested in motorsport and which still doesn’t even exist in production,” stresses Dr. Martin Mühlmeier, Head of Technology at Audi Sport. “The challenge is correspondingly big.”

Two R18 e-tron quattro will be fielded for this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours on June 16/17. The star Audi racers will be driven by the same trio of Audi Sport’s star drivers, including last year’s winning Audi team. Driving duties for the two cars will be shared between Marcel Fässler (CH), André Lotterer (D), Benoît Tréluyer (F) and Dindo Capello (I), Tom Kristensen (DK) and Allan McNish (GB).

However Audi is not pinning all its hopes on the pair of hybrid racers. A pair of conventional TDI powered, R18 ultra will also be fielded, driven by Loïc Duval (F), Timo Bernhard (D), Romain Dumas (F) and Marco Bonanomi (I), Oliver Jarvis (GB) and Mike Rockenfeller (D).

The R18 ultra is the lightest Le Mans prototype that Audi Sport has ever built.

To minimize any additional logistic support necessitated from fielding two different cars, both the R18 ultra and R18 e-tron quattro were developed in parallel and share an identical base.

The Audi will not be the only hybrid at this year’s Le Mans. Toyota is also fielding its TS 030 petrol-electric hybrid, with a supercapacitor (compared to Audi’s flywheel) based motorsport version of the company’s Toyota Hybrid Synergy Drive (THS) drive train, dubbed THS-R (Toyota Hybrid Synergy Drive Racing).

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