Audi is developing an extended-range electric vehicle that uses a rotary engine to recharge the batteries.
The automaker is testing prototypes based on the A1 e-tron concept, which debuted in March at the Geneva auto show. European sales are planned, but no decision has been made on the U.S market. Audi is expected to reintroduce the A2 name for the vehicle.
"We will start a pilot project at the end of the year," Michael Dick, Audi's board member for technology, said in an interview with Motor Trend. The story appears on the magazine's Web site.
"The first prototype car is running very well at the moment,” Dick told the magazine. “We hope to make a small series at the end of 2012 or the beginning of 2013."
Audi plans to use the electric car as a template for future models.
At the Geneva auto show, the automaker said the concept had an expected range of 31 miles under electric power, with a peak power output of 75 kilowatts or about 102 hp. When the battery power is exhausted, the small rotary engine starts, giving the vehicle an additional 124-mile range, the automaker said.
Speaking of the rotary engine, Dick said, “It is a big favorite for me personally, this concept, because it works perfectly with this city car,” a reference to the A1. Because the rotary engine is small, he said, space is plentiful, “it remains a four-seater and it has full space in the trunk.”
The original, slow-selling A2 was produced in Europe from late 1999 to 2005. It was criticized for its styling and less-than-stellar performance.
In an interview with Automotive News in March at the Geneva auto show, Dick said the company's push to add electric variants will play a role with the A2 “in the near future.”