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Like the sedan showed at Geneva last month, this Audi A3 e-tron Concept is billed as a “Technical Study”. But it’s obvious that Audi is planning a small saloon that will slot under the A4 (which has grown by quite a bit through the years), and the fact that both that concept and this one are of the same size and look identical save for a few details, hints that this design should be almost final.

The turbo-five A3 from Geneva teased an RS high performance version, but this Shanghai showstar is all about clean performance, like e-trons before it. Designed as a plug-in hybrid, the A3 e-tron concept is propelled by two power units – a 211 hp 1.4 TFSI and a 27 hp (20 kW) electric motor. Together with a 7-speed S tronic ‘box, this A3 is good for 0-100 in 6.8 seconds on to a 231 km/h top speed.

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At the heart of the Audi A3 e-tron concept are the lithium-ion batteries located behind the rear seats. With a charge capacity of 12 kWh, they give the notchback a range of up to 54 km on electric power alone. The batteries are charged by the standard energy recovery system when the car is in motion or directly from a household power socket when parked. This means a large part of daily commuting can be entirely emissions-free.

All nice and good tech for the future, but we’re more interested in whether the production version, which is tipped to surface in the second half of 2012, will retain this concept’s well received proportions and design.