The sound of silence

Not much to hear when an electric carís audio stops working


ONE great thing with electric cars is that youíre never torn between listening to the sound of whatís banging away underneath the bonnet and the latest chart-topper that you canít get out of your head. Except that the standard sound system in my A3 e-Tron is a tad disappointing, especially when itís 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. Iíve had the occasional private disagreement with the 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 thereís no drive.

Turns out you have to hold the start button for a second or two and make sure the green ďe-Tron readyĒ symbol illuminates.

Two months in and Iím getting used to that, as well as some of the e-Tronís other quirks. Like when youíve done your 35-40 electric kays and the petrol engine comes to life. Thereís often a mild hesitation, like youíve lifted off the accelerator, but it only happens when the engine is cold. Running in hybrid mode Ė whereby it uses the petrol engine and electric motor together, similar to a Prius Ė the switch is generally seamless.

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 Iíve 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 donít have to worry about the brakes.

Itís a clever way to trickle extra electrons into those batteries.

Speaking of charging, with solar at home Iím 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-Tronís electriconly 75kW is nothing exciting, but the 330Nm is Ė Iím hooked on it, and it makes the A3 a great gadget for zipping through the suburbs. Sans sound, that is. Oh well, at least Iíve worked out that if it were my money Iíd be ticking the box for the optional Bang & Olufsen sound system.


There are benefits to home charging, but dragging the chunky cable out every time is not fun


Date acquired: January 2016 Price as tested: $65,530 This month: 557km @ 8.2kWh/100km (plus 25.7L of fuel) Overall: 1160km @ 10.0kWh/100km (plus 50.9L of fuel) Dat Pri Th Ov

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 Ė which was higher this month because I did some longer drives Ė Iím 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.