A few years back an American friend staying with me got overly excited when she heard the electric whirr of a milk float pull up outside with the added excitement of a few clinking bottles. I had to physically restrain her from opening the door as his footsteps drew closer to have a look at this mythical beast. Clearly California has not had the pleasure.

Clinking bottles aside, god knows what she would have made of Audi’s R8 E-tron pulling off a 8:09.099 lap at the Nurburgring.  In fact I’m not too sure what I make of it myself. Especially as in 2009 (according to MSN Autos) Audi of America President, Johan de Nysschen, proclaimed that the Chevrolet Volt electric vehicle was a car for “idiots”. The next day the Audi Facebook page contained a slight u-turn – thank god for the almost instant immediacy of social media eh? That aside, the R8 E-tron is (technically) a production vehicle, which makes the advances that we have seen in electric powered cars for the masses to date even more exciting.

Audi R8 E-tron

The official Audi press release states that the E-tron, driven by Mark Winkelhock, “..has set a world record for a production vehicle with an electric drive system on the Nürburgring Nordschleife”.

It’s the word ‘production’ in this that is key, because if you take this word out then you would also have to replace the word Audi with the word Toyota, as last year Toyota’s Radical based electric car set a record of 7:47.794 at the 20.8km Nurburgring – and that makes it faster than the E-tron.

Audi say the E-tron has a range of 130 miles and can do 0-62mph in 4.6 seconds, the production vehicle will have a top speed of 124mph, although interestingly, the record-breaking version was set up to be able to do 155mph. So not quite a production vehicle then!

So what’s going on here? Well, clearly it’s all about gaining the edge and some much needed publicity. There will indeed be a limited run of R8 E-tron electric cars in the future, so yes, technically this is a production vehicle. But the Radical based Toyota is still faster.

The Toyota TMG EV P001 is a road-legal all electric vehicle based on the Radical chassis, with a claimed top speed of 160mph and a 0-62mph in a E-tron-beating 3.9 seconds.

Toyota TMG EV P001

Toyota Motorsport GMBH’s record breaking car was driven by Jochen Krumbach in August last year and comfortably beat the previous record of 9:1.338 seconds. The lithium ceramic battery powered TMG EV P001 uses a two electric motor powertrain which will, Toyota say, go into production sometime in 2012 for commercial sale.

The TMG weighs in at a svelte 970kg – a full 810kg lighter than the E-tron which weighes in at 1,780kg.

Electric car technology has existed since the early1800s, but only now, thanks to improved battery technology, are we seeing the sort of improvements that are surely now going to make even the most sceptical petrolhead take electric vehicles more seriously.

Although we are, I suspect, still some way from being able to satisfactorily address such issues as electric vehicle ranges being limited to around the 130 mile mark and the subsequent re-charging dilemmas that this inevitably brings – not to mention the problem of charging your electric vehicle at home when a parking space directly outside your own home can sometimes be a bit of a lottery. It’s still quicker and more convenient to fill up with petrol.

I think that the Audi R8 E-tron Nurburgring lap time and the (unintended) extra publicity that this event has given to Toyota’s Radical chassis embracing TMG EV P001 will have at least proven to many doubters, motor manufacturing presidents and milkman-stalking Californians that electric vehicles are not just for idiots – they are for everyone.

English electric milk float

Toyota image from carsuk.net

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