Here’s how Audi increased the electric E-Tron’s driving range

Audi isn’t resting on its laurels. Less than a year after it released the E-Tron, its first series-produced electric car, Audi made a series of hardware and software changes to the model’s powertrain that unlock additional driving range.

“Residual brake torque” is one of the enemies of driving range, the German company explained. The term refers to the drag created when brake pads are positioned very, very close to discs. Rather than pushing the pads out, which would increase the E-Tron’s stopping distance, engineers redesigned the braking system to reduce residual brake torque.

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The E-Tron’s all-wheel drive powertrain consists of an electric motor for each axle. Software changes turn the front motor almost completely off in normal driving conditions, when it’s not needed, to reduce the amount of drag it generates. It’s immediately engaged when the driver needs more power, or when the rear axle begins losing traction. Think of it as a cylinder deactivation system — which, on the RS 7 Sportback, turns the V8 into a V4 — for electric cars.

The vehicle development team then turned its attention to the recuperation system that converts kinetic energy into electricity that gets channeled back to the battery pack. The E-Tron still offers three regeneration levels, but they’re more spread out than before, which should allow motorists to drive using only the accelerator pedal in many conditions, and not touch the brakes. When we drove the E-Tron, we noted we’d like the option to dial in more regen, and now it sounds like it’s finally here; we can’t wait to try it. Finally, Audi also made the cooling system more efficient and less energy-dependent, while increasing the amount of usable battery capacity from 83.6 to 86.5 kilowatt-hours.

All told, the E-Tron can cover 15.5 additional miles on a single charge, meaning its battery pack delivers 270 miles of range on the notoriously optimistic WLTP testing cycle used in Europe. In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) gave the model a 204-mile range. If our version gets the same tweaks, its range could go above the 210-mile mark.

Will it? That’s a mystery for the time being. As of writing, the upgrades that unlock more range have only been announced for the European-spec E-Tron. Audi hasn’t revealed whether the American-spec model will benefit from the same changes in the coming months. We’ve reached out to the company for clarification, and we’ll update this story if we learn more.

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