Dust to dust. Lines in the minds of the designers become forms out of a 3D printer. The thrilling design of the Audi moon rover. Jorge Diez, Head of Audi Concept Automotive Design, talks about the design for the first Audi on the moon.
Jorge, for an extraterrestrial vehicle like a moon rover, do you create an extraterrestrial or extraordinary design?
Here at the Audi Concept Design Studio, we need to have an open-minded philosophy, because we work with various brands and concepts for the future. In our department, the designers need to exceed the limits to find new designs.
But designing a moon rover is something very special for sure. So it is important that we take a different approach. First: it drives on the moon, so we need to know exactly what the conditions are. Second: the design has to take all the technical requirements of this project into account. It is exceptional. It is challenging. And every project that represents a big challenge automatically hits us Audi designers in the heart.
"In our department, the designers need to exceed the limits to find new designs."
So a moon rover has to look totally different from a regular car?
A good design has to be honest. It has to show the qualities that lie on the inside of the object. When we design a car with dynamic performance, we need to show this feeling of dynamics in the design. But with the moon rover ¬– it is totally different. Here the design has to represent the technology and all the technical input that has gone into it. Also – and of course – it has to represent a part of the heart of Audi. Audi has a formal language and this language has to be adapted and expressed in every kind of vehicle. Even a moon rover.
A moon rover is first and foremost defined by its highly specialised technology that mustn’t be impaired by the design. For example: the solar panel. Do these technical specifications restrict you or do they unlock new opportunities?
At first you think it is a bit of a restriction, but then you come to see it more like a challenge.
People have to understand that a moon rover drives in conditions that are the most extreme a vehicle can drive in – at least within the universe we can reach. On the moon we have extreme temperatures of +120 degrees Celsius facing the sun but 180 degrees Celsius on the side facing away from the sun. So a lot of cooling has to be considered when constructing the rover.
“Every project that represents a big challenge automatically hits us Audi designers in the heart.”
Then, of course, a rover needs to be built in space aluminium and magnesium for maximum resistance to the radiation on the moon. And it needs to be lightweight like all Audi models because the cost of sending a vehicle to space is extremely high. The more weight a rover has, the higher the costs are. In the end, all the specifications we need are the same as those an Audi needs on Earth but more extreme: efficiency, light weight, e-tron power and the best engine for all types of terrain. An Audi car is extremely efficient – the moon rover needs to be even more efficient. An Audi car drives with quattro – the moon rover drives with quattro. But on the moon you have very fine sand, almost like powder, so we also need to protect the rover with our design and technology.
Is the moon rover a vehicle where form follows function?
Yes, definitely. Because of the conditions we have on the moon, we need to really think about every design detail. The design must not only be beautiful but also enhance the effectiveness of the rover. It has to serve the purpose of driving on the moon – but it also has to have the aesthetics you expect from an Audi.
Audi Design is mainly created from the inside out. It is like a person. If you look into a person’s eyes, you can see if this is a nice person, if the person has a good heart. This principle also applies to Audi. Every Audi is driven by a powerful heart and that is what the design has to express on the outside. Audi design is honest. And that is what the rover is: an extremely honest vehicle.
When you design cars, you have big proportions where you can shape lines. The moon rover is a very small vehicle. How does this affect the design process?
The way we designed the rover probably reflects more how we design the interior of our cars. Audi has the best interior design quality in the automotive world. So we work on the rover just like we work on the interior of our cars: piece by piece, with absolute perfection.
The rover doesn’t have the big surfaces or long lines we are used to that express movement. The rover has to express something different: the technology it is equipped with, where we are ahead of everybody else. So with this in mind, we work on details until we reach perfection. I am sure the rover will become one of the design icons of Audi. All the details come together and add up to an iconic and logical design.
Is it important that the viewer recognise the moon rover as an Audi at first sight?
Of course it has to be recognised, but people also need to be open to the future. What you recognise today as an Audi may evolve tomorrow. Design evolves but the philosophy of Audi remains. Of course the Audi design DNA is there. We come from Bauhaus, from functional forms, technical precision; we look extremely modern and perfect. And we will continue to do so. We have some basic values that you see in everything and every design we do, no matter whether it is an airplane or a piece of furniture. This essence will also show in the rover – but in a different interpretation.
Is this moon project as a future project also a hint of the Audi design of the future?
Maybe not in terms of style, but in terms of how we take on the challenge to create something beautiful that has to prove itself in the most extreme conditions you can imagine. Everybody on our team is extremely excited. This design really comes from our hearts and dedication – and because that is the case, we can push it and cross boundaries.