Musings on the Motoring World

Audi’s PB18 e-tron concept is a welcoming view of the future

With an average participant net worth of a small tax haven, Pebble Beach has earned a reputation as the poshest event on the motoring calendar. A reputation that has caught the attention of carmakers who now roll out their most expensive creations under that inviting Californian sky in hopes to get their affluent audiences to slip out the cheques.

While this year’s line-up of debutants includes a driver-focused Chiron, a ‘brand-new’ one-off 993 Turbo, and a new Nürburgring Nordschleife lap king, the one that stood out was Audi’s first Pebble Beach concept, the PB18 e-tron.

Named in honour of the company’s discontinued R18 LMP1 racer, the all-electric PB18 is touted as what Audi deems a “Level Zero” concept car or a concept with no autonomous driving aids.

What it does have instead is an inner driver seat monocoque, which can move laterally across the cabin, allowing drivers to position themselves on either side for easy ingress and street driving, or right in the centre for the optimal driving position on the track. Made possible by the use of drive-by-wire tech, this is perhaps the best utilisation of the tech, and that isn’t all.

Even though the PB18 follows a mid-engine layout and shape, the absence of a traditional internal combustion engine and its accompanying drivetrain enables the PB18 to sport a supercar cab-forward front, with a shooting brake profile, and 470-litres of cargo space to boot.

Power in the meantime is said to be drawn from a bank of solid-state batteries, which allows the PB18 to achieve a low weight of 1550kg, and thanks to its three motors -one in the front and two in the rear – it is able to deploy up to 570kW on tap and launch itself from 0 to 100km/h in a touch over 2 seconds.

With wires and batteries replacing the traditional fixed mechanical components, the PB18’s body can be riddled full of hidden vents, integrated winglets, and deployable aerodynamic aids to minimise its drag coefficient and maximise visibility without blemishing its overall appearance.

While carmakers’ electric concept cars have been brazenly following the past – similar to how all cars have been adopting the horse-drawn carriages’ feces shield known as a dashboard – Audi’s interpretation of an all-electric supercar discards all notion of the old world in favour of the possibilities new-age tech has to offer.

The PB18’s slice of the future in Pebble Beach certainly sticks out like a sore thumb, considering that the show also saw the debut of two retro-inspired all-electric concepts from Mercedes-Benz and Infiniti whose shapes harken back to pre-war racing days, but it is made all the more remarkable for it.

That being said, Audi has no serious plans of putting the PB18 into production. Audi maintains that the PB18 exists purely as a design and technical study, though should their electric ambitions make bank, the PB18 poses as a great and refreshing start for the next chapter of the supercar. Let’s hope they don’t get overwhelmed by the old-world gilded nostalgia under that picturesque sky.

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