Audi’s A8 e-tron, first shown in Frankfurt as a concept in 2009, and until recently said to be due for production in 2013, has been postponed until further notice, and the project may be canceled altogether.

Citing factors including high battery costs, limited range performance for the money, and possible lack of sufficient customers, Car & Driver magazine this week reported that Wolfgang Dürheimer, Audi’s new head of R&D put a halt to the development.

The magazine said it was “explicitly” told the R8 e-tron project may not be restarted with battery costs and range among the top prohibitive obstacle, among “numerous” reasons.

The publication also called out those in the battery industry who it says have over-hyped battery technology, promising a “game-changing” increase in energy density is always right around the corner.

However, there is truth to the assertion batteries are getting better, the question is how much, and the fact is until a bona fide paradigm shift is delivered, it does remain talk. But promising projects to develop new and existing technologies are underway, but apparently not fast enough for the German automaker.

The Audi R8 e-tron prototype over the last few years has in previous demonstration runs been known to run out of juice at inopportune times – such as Le Mans in 2010. More recently in June this year, it was seen turning hot laps at the ever-popular and not particularly secret testing track that is the Nürburgring.

Audi’s ultimate EV had previously been reported by various publications to have MSRP estimates ranging in 20090 at around $150,000 to as high this year as an estimated $242,000.

The company also showed off such innovations as digital electric rear-view mirrors, and a video highlighting development of it’s e-sound signature to warn off pedestrians with an aurally acceptable and evocative tone suitable for the likes of a high-end e-sports car.

Car & Driver said it was tentatively planning a shootout with the pending – and not canceled – Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Electric Drive, but this now appears as though it will not happen.

So now at the upper echelon level – perhaps more understandable than entry level – Audi has backed away to leave Mercedes to continue onward – not unlike how Toyota brass in Japan have said it would back away from all-electric small city cars, while Nissan is going full-bore ahead.

Apparently EVs can be portrayed either way – as good-enough and getting better, or not ready for prime time, depending on perceived market and technological realities combined with an automaker’s own in-house risk tolerance.

Car & Driver blog