2014 Audi Q7 TDI

Audi to Launch Q7 Hybrid Diesel for European Market

2014 Audi Q7 TDI

We in the U.S. of A see ourselves as unique from Europe.  We are, “exceptional”, if you believe the Ayn Rand-types.  Which is why we adopted the hybrid car much, much faster than Europe did.  This all sounds very forward-thinking and such; until you find out that our exceptionalism meant that we missed out on the benefits and cost savings of turbo diesel.  For a few decades, the Europeans were going faster while squeezing more from a gallon of fuel.  While we methodically drove our Buicks and Lincolns from one gas station to the other, they were slinging 2 tons of steel and aluminum all over the countryside much cheaper and at faster speeds.

Fast forward to the mid-aught-teens.  Now we’re ahead of Europe, when it comes to hybrid vehicles.  Americans are on board with economy and speed.  We followed the hybrid route, and lead the world in hybrid sales.  Which isn’t bad, given our nature of being 100% wrong on the way to becoming right (did we ever find those WMD’s?).

Our friends at Automotive Week tell us today that Audi is planning to beat Mercedes and BMW to the punch and introduce a hybrid diesel Q7 uber-SUV model.  The new vehicle will be sold in Europe and the USA.  Which makes sense, as Americans seem to be the ones hybrid-happy these days.

Unfortunately they didn’t come up with an on-sale date.

…Audi will present a plug-in hybrid diesel drivetrain next year, said the brand’s technical development chief, Ulrich Hackenberg.

The drivetrain will use a 3.0-liter V-6 diesel engine and an electric motor. It will be fitted first to Audi’s Q line of SUVs and the A8 flagship sedan, Hackenberg said. He was speaking at the sidelines of an event here.

Hackenberg said plug-in hybrid diesels will be sold in the United States as well as Europe.

The first vehicle to be fitted with the technology is likely to be the new Q7, which will go on sale with gasoline and diesel engines next year.  No date was given for the sale of the plug-in version….

I like diesels, and I like the idea of hybrid diesels.  Why the “idea”?  Because you can take a proper diesel engine and strap a hybrid assembly to it.  Plenty economical, with plenty of torque.  What I fear is that once you strap on the hybrid, companies will surrender to the inclination to cut power.  Mercedes did it with the GLK 250 BlueTEC.  Instead of keeping the standard 3.5 liter turbo diesel in the ML and GL classes; they brought in a smaller 2.5 liter diesel turbo.  Meh.

It looks like Audi will not come down with “cut power-itis” in this case.  According to the article, the new Q7 will keep the existing 3.0 liter turbo diesel power plant.  AND they’ll feature this little piece of technology:

Audi will launch another hi-tech diesel technology in the near-term when it applies an e-booster electric turbocharger to its 3.0-liter V-6 TDI engine in the Q7. This uses an electric compressor to spin up the turbocharger from very low revs to cancel out turbo lag.

“The new Q7 will be in the market next year and the electric turbo will come a little later in a sporty version called SQ7,” Hackenberg said.

Audi is considering a version of the A5 wearing the company’s high-performance RS badge that would be powered by the same e-boosted diesel engine, he said.

Combustion engines and specifically diesel will be key to cutting CO2 emissions in Audi cars, Hackenberg said. “Gasoline technology will not supplant the efficiency of diesel,” he said.

Yes, you saw the bold correctly.  An electric turbocharger.  “What da hell is that?”, you ask in disbelief.  It seems to be another example of big ideas applied to racing technology that end up in consumer vehicles.  Audi’s R18, their current V-6 powered LMP1 racer, features an electric turbocharger.  Apparently it must work well, otherwise they wouldn’t waste the research and testing dollars.  According to Autoblog.com:

Audi has fitted the V6 with an electric turbocharger and figured out how to capture waste heat generated when the engine reaches its boost limit. That power can then be stored and fed back into either the turbo or the front axle’s hybrid system under acceleration.

Or as Autoportal.com puts it:

Yes, you read that correct, an electric turbo fitted to it’s V6. Don’t know how but Audi’s mad scientists have found a way to link the electric turbo to the engine and convert the waste heat generated when the engine reaches its boost limit to electric power. This power is then stored and fed back into either the turbo or the hybrid system powering the front wheels.

It’s actually not that big a secret, nor is it automotive alchemy.  Back in 2012, Car and Driver.com did a ride along with the then nascent technology:

Audi electric turbocharger

The Audi prototypes use a single exhaust-driven turbocharger nestled in the valley of the familiar 3.0-liter diesel V-6 (as seen in the Q7 TDI and soon in the U.S.-market A8); closer to the front-mounted intercooler is a secondary turbocharger, this one powered by 48-volt electricity. (The car itself runs on 12 volts, with a converter stepping up the extra juice for the blower.) The premise is simple: At low speeds, the electric turbo spins up instantly, providing boost and eliminating the typical lag associated with turbo-diesels.

Behind the wheel, the performance was impressive, with no hint of delay in power delivery. In addition, Audi claims the system increases the low-end power enough that mild acceleration at highway speeds requires less downshifting, which improves fuel economy. Consider us fans of this gizmo.

To me that’s just plain cool, and consider me a fan of this reasonably new European technology as well. Other of my fellow Americans, who may think Europe is getting ahead of itself again, this might signal a time to become “exceptional” again.

 

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Sebastian James

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Accept no substitutes

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