There's not much to hear when an electric car’s audio stops working.
First published in the May 2016 issue of Wheels magazine, Australia’s most experienced and most trusted car magazine since 1953.
ONE great thing with electric cars is that you’re never torn between listening to the sound of what’s banging away underneath the bonnet and the latest chart-topper that you can’t get out of your head. Except that the standard sound system in my Audi A3 e-Tron is a tad disappointing, especially when it’s not working properly.
Our car has an intermittent problem whereby an amplifier or speakers go on the blink. It always seems to happen when Slash is winding up for Paradise City, at which point cranking the volume has little effect, except for early onset distortion.
That lack of engine noise also creates its own hurdles. I’ve had the occasional private disagreement with the Audi A3 on when it should start. Or, at least, when I think it should have started. Press the button and the dash lights up, but grab a gear and there’s no drive.
Turns out you have to hold the start button for a second or two and make sure the green “e-Tron ready” symbol illuminates.
Two months in and I’m getting used to that, as well as some of the e-Tron’s other quirks. Like when you’ve done your 35-40 electric kays and the petrol engine comes to life. There’s often a mild hesitation, like you’ve lifted off the accelerator, but it only happens when the engine is cold. Running in hybrid mode – whereby it uses the petrol engine and electric motor together, similar to a Prius – the switch is generally seamless.
There are benefits to home charging, but dragging the chunky cable out every time is not fun.
This month I used the petrol engine more than the electric motor, mainly because the A3 got its first freeway run and the majority of the trip was in hybrid mode. Fuel use for the freeway run settled at 5.0L/100km, better than the 7L-plus I’ve seen with energetic driving around town.
Helping its cause is the smart regenerative braking. Lift off on a flat road and it coasts freely, but start tipping down a hill and you feel the regen kicking in harder for more resistance, so you often don’t have to worry about the brakes.
It’s a clever way to trickle extra electrons into those batteries.
Speaking of charging, with solar at home I’m always eager to make use of sunshine but that often means charging when you really need to be driving. Inevitably I end up reverting to dirty electricity at night.
As for performance, the e-Tron’s electric-only 75kW is nothing exciting, but the 330Nm is – I’m hooked on it, and it makes the A3 a great gadget for zipping through the suburbs. Sans sound, that is. Oh well, at least I’ve worked out that if it were my money I’d be ticking the box for the optional Bang & Olufsen sound system.
Plug in for savings
Electricity use barely seems to change with the driving style, at least when the e-Tron is running purely on electricity. No doubt the regenerative braking would have helped, capturing braking energy to reuse later. Excluding fuel use – which was higher this month because I did some longer drives – I’m using about 20kW/h per 100km. That works out at a tad over $5 per 100 kays, which is cheaper than what it would cost to run on petrol alone, even in these days of cheap fuel.
AUDI A3 E-TRON
Price as tested: $65,530
Part 2: 557km @ 8.2kWh/100km (plus 25.7L of fuel)
Overall: 1160km @ 10.0kWh/100km (plus 50.9L of fuel)
Date acquired: January 2015
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