Sometimes, moving from concept to reality doesn’t take all that long. Such seems to be the case with the Audi A1 e-tron: six months after unwrapping the electric-powered subcompact at the 2010 Geneva Motor Show, the German automaker announced it plans on having a test fleet of cars up and running by the summer of 2011.
According to a release issued by Audi, the company plans on building 20 A1 e-tron test cars by next summer, and put them into use within the metropolitan Munich area. The project was spurred in no small part by the German Federal Ministry of Transport, which forked over a sizable $12.7 million grant to the endeavor to fulfill Transport Minister Peter Ramsauer’s dream of having a million EVs on German roads by 2020.
Although these cars continue to bear the e-tron label, these A1s are not pure electric vehicles. Like the Chevrolet Volt, a small engine fires up to serve as a generator, effectively extending the total range. On electricity alone, the A1 can travel up to 32 miles of travel, thanks in part to a small 12-kWh lithium-ion battery pack mounted underneath the rear seat. After that, a 254-cc Wankel rotary engine (mounted underneath the rear load floor) comes online, providing enough electricity to boost range by 124 miles.
Audi may be charged with building the electrified A1s, but it won’t be responsible for installing the charging network for their use. Instead, two German utility companies are partnering to install roughly 100 recharging stations across the city, mostly within existing parking structures and private garages. Meanwhile, the Technical University of Munich will be collecting test data from (i.e. drive cycles, charging times, use of public transit, etc.) via a customized smartphone application.
Does this mean we’ll see Audi launch the A1 e-tron into series production sooner than later? We wouldn’t hold our breath, but officials noted during the Geneva unveiling that it would produce a limited batch of the cars by 2012, and could become a regular production model if it succeeds in testing.