Electrification’s Silver Lining: Audi CEO Announces PB 18 e-tron Production Plans

Audi unveiled the PB 18 e-tron Concept at the 2018 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance with absolutely no assurance that it would ever be more than a fun idea. In fact, the company outright said it had no plans to put the vehicle into production. Miraculously, Audi flip-flopped, and the electrified hypercar is now slated for assembly.

You might hate it, but this is one of the few concept vehicles to ever make this author cream the proverbial jeans during office hours. Maybe it’s because I normally wait until the darkest point of the evening to unfurl my shame over a bottle of homemade wine and revisit vintage photo rolls of the Honda Unibox and Suzuki Regina — the latter of which was too good for this world.

However, whether or not Audi can successfully capture the magic of the PB 18 Concept remains to be seen.

Playing host to a trio of electric motors producing up to 764 hp and 612 lb-ft of torque, plus some of the most interesting automotive styling and tech we’ve seen since the last Blade Runner film, getting the PB 18 right could be exceedingly difficult for the automaker. Following its debut in Pebble Beach, my first thought was “wow,” followed by “this thing would be ludicrously expensive to build.”

According to the Dutch division of AutoWeek, Audi thinks the PB 18 might be worth it. The company received a lot of praise for the model and thinks it could serve as a halo vehicle for its burgeoning e-tron subsidiary. Announced at Audi’s Mission Zero event, which marked the launch of the e-tron brand in the very EV-friendly Netherlands, Audi CEO Bram Schot said the model would be limited to just 50 examples.

It’s slightly strange that the company chose an exclusively European event focusing on the elimination of pollution and climate change to announce the PB 18, but the car’s role as an EV doesn’t make the decision completely nonsensical. Still, it does make one worry the car might not be available in the United States — not that I’ll ever be able to afford one.

Even if Audi only loosely adheres to the concept, the e-tron will probably still cost more than most homes. The car that debuted at Pebble Beach had a 95 kWh solid-state battery capable of 310 miles when fully charged. Maximum range would likely fall off rather quickly when the PB 18 unleashes all 671 horsepower through all four wheels. Of course, its kinetic energy recovery system allows for intermittent periods where up to 764 hp becomes available. Either way, Audi claims the car can reach 60 mph in just over two seconds and can replenish its battery in only 15 minutes using inductive charging.

It’s also made entirely of aluminum, carbon fiber, and various composite mediums to ensure lightness. Audi quoted its weight at around 3,417 pounds, thanks to the lightweight materials. Add in adaptive aerodynamics, a slick suspension, and a driver’s seat that can reposition itself based on how aggressively you want to be with the e-tron, and it starts to become clear we’re talking about a vehicle with an MSRP that might end in -illion rather than -ousand.

The PB 18 is very advanced and, as we know, advanced is a term that’s synonymous with expensive in the auto industry. If Audi is really serious about building this thing, we would expect them to nix the movable cockpit, ditch the solid-state battery (maybe for a plug-in hybrid system), and scrap some of the more expensive building materials. Fortunately, Audi already said autonomous features would be nonexistent, sarcastically boasting that the model would have “Level 0 autonomy.” Because it’s a driver’s car, see.

I just hope they don’t muck it up. This has the makings of a truly legendary automobile. Unfortunately, something tells me that whatever Audi delivers will eventually become the blueprint for a Lamborghini follow-up that Volkswagen Group will stipulate must be the superior car.

We’ve reached out to Audi to see what else we can find out, and will update accordingly.

[Images: Audi]

Leave a Reply