Audi's Next-Gen A8 Adds Mild Hybrid Arrangement as Standard; Other Models to Follow
There’s a bit of an automotive renaissance occurring just below the radar. While pure electrics and plug-in hybrids garner endless headlines, several luxury brands are sneaking more mild hybrid arrangements under their vehicles’ hoods via a 48-volt electrical system.
Audi is a firm believer in the technology and is making moves to implement the system in numerous vehicles in its lineup, starting with the fourth-generation A8 arriving later this year. Combining regenerative braking with a small lithium battery and belt-driven alternator, the system harnesses wasted energy and is a more affordable way to tap into the benefits of hybridization. So affordable, automakers are using the KERS-like system on models as standard equipment, not a optional extra.
In this regard, Audi’s A8 is no different. The next generations of the A6 and A7 will also use the technology.
Alexander Kruse, Audi’s project head for the 48-volt enhanced ICEs, told Automotive News the brand wants to bake the system into larger models “very quickly.” The A7 is due to debut at the Frankfurt auto show this September and the A6 launches sometime in 2018. While the pair won’t receive setups quite as trick as the flagship sedan, the mechanical theories are identical.
Audi claims the system equates to an additional 12 kilowatts (16 horsepower) and 60 Newton meters (44 lb-ft) of torque on tested V6s, reducing fuel consumption by 0.7 liters per 100 km — enough to notice at the pump, if you’re paying attention. While the real draw for consumers is the added torque, the system does some of its best work when it isn’t making any.
The A8 can coast for up to 45 seconds with the engine turned off at speeds between 19 mph to 99 mph but, once the driver touches the gas, the alternator/starter combo brings the engine back up to speed.
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I think the fears about added complexity of hybrid components are overblown. Ever notice how many hybrid taxis there are these days? I doubt taxi companies would put so much love behind vehicles that were breaking down all the time. And any added complexity in the drive system is partially offset by the increased brake life provided by regenerative braking. It seems that with hybrids and electric cars, brakes are pretty much good for the life of the vehicle. I realize this is not a huge expense but it's a certain one in cars without motors and batteries.
2018 Audi A8, now offering the same up-to-the-minute BAS technology as the 2007 Saturn Vue Green Line! 2017 Audi A3 eTron, now offering half the EV mileage of the 2011 Chevy Volt! If this sort of thing represents Audi's response to green concerns, I'd rank it somewhere between a C-minus engineering effort and an upraised middle finger.