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Audi's R8 sports car now comes with an all-electric option

Electric sports cars are catching up to their petrol-fuelled brethren fast

For someone like me, an event like the Geneva Motor Show can be an alien experience. I'm an electronics geek, more accustomed to reviewing things that fit into pockets, but here I am gazing upon a show floor massed with four-wheeled gas guzzlers. That gap of familiarity is gradually being bridged, however, as carmakers embrace electric motors and produce more powerful and beautiful electric cars than ever before. There are more battery-powered headliners this year than ever, and one of them is Audi's R8 sports car, which now includes an e-tron option.

Instead of the V10 petrol engine that can take the R8 to 100kmh in 3.2 seconds, the e-tron model uses only electric power to achieve a 3.9-second 0-to-100 time. That's still some pretty awesome acceleration, but the real innovation of this new electric car is in the density of its battery. Audi has almost doubled energy storage — from 49kWh on its first electric platform to the current 92kWh — and done so without requiring any extra space. Energy density has, as a result, grown from 84Wh/kg to 154Wh/kg. With a few modifications made to the electric version of the car — such as the crazy-looking wheels that appear specifically designed to minimize drag — this combines for a claimed range in excess of 450km / 279.6 miles.

That's more than the Tesla Model S's reported 270 miles according to American standards, but less than the 310-mile range that the S is advertised with in Europe. In any case, Audi's new car will last for a good long while before needing a recharge, plus the German carmaker promises extremely quick charging when it's needed.

Audi's R8 e-tron is far from a mass market commercial product, with the company admitting that it "uses the electrical high-performance sports car primarily as a mobile high-tech laboratory." Nonetheless, requests from interested buyers will be honored with a "hand-built quality" when the R8 e-tron becomes available to order later in the year. It shares a chassis and many design and construction elements with the regular R8, including carbon fiber-reinforced plastics and other futuristic stuff that makes big things go fast. If you've always wanted an aggressively styled German sports car, but didn't want to mess around with gears, oil changes, and all of that old-fashioned stuff, Audi's just about ready to satisfy your desires.

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