Allow us to explain.
Electric cars face one major issue that acts as a stumbling block to widespread adoption. It's not the lack of emotion with its dull and uninspiring sounds, since that only applies to a relatively small group of people that we fall into as enthusiasts. No, the biggest issue is range anxiety, and although automakers are continually redeveloping their electric offerings, it will be a long time until there is enough infrastructure to make driving an EV anywhere feasible. Nevertheless, manufacturers like Audi are pushing ahead with electrification programs, but until the range and tech are up to scratch, the German automaker is exploring other options too, and one of them is a very clever range extender.
According to patent documents uncovered by CarBuzz, Audi is looking to develop a compact, low-vibration, boxer-style range extender engine to further enhance the range of its electric vehicles. The reasons they would want to do such a thing rather than simply soldier on with traditional hybrids are mentioned in the filing, which lists issues such as space, weight, vibration, and noise. Many of these issues could be solved with a Wankel rotary engine, notes the document, but "poor thermal efficiency" and "an unfavorably shaped combustion chamber" put such an idea to bed in the minds of Audi engineers. Thus, a tightly packaged two-cylinder boxer is the way forward.
The idea of using a tiny, low-vibration combustion engine as a range extender is not something altogether new, as Obrist Powertrain recently revealed its own such creation that was fitted to a Tesla Model 3. Sure, it's not the cleanest possible way of getting where you need to go, but making such a small engine reliable, economical, and powerful for its size could have benefits in the long-term retention of the combustion engine as a whole. The more efficient this small range extender gets, the more Audi will learn about applying similar principles to full-size engines. At the very least, the Audi e-tron GT of tomorrow will be able to go much further than ever before.