Climbing the Mousetrap with the Audi e-tron technology demonstrator

Challenges exist to be met. Inspired by this motto, Audi already sent an e-tron technology demonstrator to challenge its limits in 2018 - from Pikes Peak to the salt flats of Namibia. This year a new trial has been added to test the limits: Audi is sending a SUV technology demonstrator up a ski slope with an 85 percent gradient - the infamous Mousetrap in Kitzbühel. Will the technology play along?

02/19/2019 Reading Time: 3 min

In the middle of the Alps, there are only boulders, snow, and ice as far as the eye can see. A nearly vertical mountain towers in front of the Audi e-tron, waiting to be conquered. A specially equipped version of the model stands at the foot of Kitzbühel's Mousetrap ready for the big show - and so does the driver, no less than rally cross world champion Mattias Ekström.

Is an icy 85 percent gradient even possible?

The thought of driving a fully electric-power SUV over the steepest section of the ski slope up to the summit makes even the experienced race driver nervous: "To conquer a ski slope with an 85 percent gradient is well above the limit of a normal car. This is an enormous challenge - for me as well as the e-tron. As soon as the starting signal sounds, he steps on the gas pedal. The spectacular ride up the 140-meter stretch begins.

Reaching the Mousetrap wasn't actually on my 'bucket list.'

Mattias Ekström, rally cross world champion

Flashback to a test drive in the style of a legendary commercial

The test drive is reminiscent of the Audi "Ski jump," a famous 1986 commercial. At that time, it was an Audi 100 quattro instead of an Audi e-tron, Harald Demuth driving in the place of Mattias Ekström, a 77 instead of an 85 percent gradient - and a sensation. In 2019, it will be even steeper. And all of this in an electric car.

In terms of safety, everything is covered: To make the project possbile in the first place, the ski slope was prepared by specialists from the Kitzbühel Ski Club and collaboration partner, Red Bull. A six-point seat belt secures racer Mattias Ekström during his ride. A roll cage and a back-up rope provide additional protection to the technology demonstrator. But whoever thinks the SUV will be pulled up the mountain, is wrong – only the power of the Audi e-tron technology demonstrator drives the electric SUV to the upper edge of the slope.

Why is Audi performing this endurance test?

Testing the limits, advancing technology: With this extraordinary endurance test, Audi demonstrates the strength of the quattro technology in an electric SUV. "The aim of the project is to climb the Mousetrap completely electrically. We can then test out the quattro technology's performance capabilities and maximum climbing ability. This is why the steepest stretch of the most difficult ski racing slope in the world makes the perfect test environment," explains Audi project leader Patrick Grimm.

To make the plan work, Audi adapted the e-tron software so that the overall torque and the distribution of the torque between the front the rear is adjustable. The special quattro drive train with two electric motors on the rear axle and one motor on the front axle provides a huge amount of power. In total, the technology demonstrator can provide a power and torque boost of up to 370 kW and 8.920 Nm of wheel torque. Audi's specially made, spiked 19-inch tires give the SUV the grip necessary to reach the summit.

The automobile company from Ingolstadt left nothing to chance with this campaign. With such an enormous incline and taking place in the open outdoors, nothing was 100 percent plannable - the rally cross champion knew this, too: "The last 25 meters will always be lodged in my memory. We conquered even the steepest stretch."

Why Audi relied on Mattias Ekström

His mind was obsessed with the idea of pressing hard on the accelerator pedal – but the car demanded sensitivity to adjust to the ice and snow. Mattias Ekström had a feeling for this. And this was the reason why Audi chose him to pilot the car. "As one of the most versatile and successful Audi racers, he had the necessary experience and a good dose of daring to go with it," says Patrick Grimm bright-eyed.

And even though Mattias Ekström has experienced many exciting races and events, the drive up the steep stretch was something special, as he reveals in an interview after the drive: "Reaching the Mousetrap wasn't actually on my 'bucket list.' However, I'm thrilled this was something I got to experience in my life."

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