The Audi e-tron quattro concept
Its shape was created in a dialoge between aerodynamics and design, the 320 kW electric drive corresponds to the e-quattro conept. The Audi etron quattro concept embodies a completely new style of sporty, innovative SUV.
Show cars are a highly exclusive species. Created under a cloak of secrecy, the futuristically styled one-off s are crafted by hand down to the tiniest detail and with a huge outlay, making them astronomically expensive. Work on them usually carries on until the eve of their unveiling, but then they form the icing on the cake at motor shows in Frankfurt, Geneva, Los Angeles or Shanghai. For Audi, these exhibitions do not usually set the stage for showcasing fantasies. Its show cars have very concrete similarities, technically and visually, with future production models. The eye-catcher at the Audi booth at this year’s Frankfurt Motor Show is no diff erent. According to Dr. Volker Kaese, head of innovation management product, the Audi e-tron quattro concept will be “the best Audi show car of all time:” a 4.80-meter long, all-electric powered sporty SUV standing on 22-inch tires, with a range of more than 500 kilometers.
Audi head of design Marc Lichte sees in the imposing vehicle “the harbinger of a new era,” referring not just to its wind tunneldeveloped aerodynamic qualities, but also to highlights such as the visualization of the quattro drive: wide flared fenders, sporty wasp-like waist, clear-cut lines from the headlights to the rear lights emphasizing the show car’s broad shoulders. Then there are the numerous technical innovations in the large SUV. The stated aim of the developers was to present efficiency and sportiness in a completely new form — and both attributes are instantly recognizable in the Audi e-tron quattro concept. In terms of formal design, the concept car was created under the “aerosthetics” motto — the aesthetics of aerodynamics. The four rings’ approach is to bring unconventional design into sync with the requirements of aerodynamics. In close inter-departmental teamwork, what many see as the age-old conflict between aerodynamics and design has for the first time been resolved. Thanks to its relatively powerful, muscular body, flat cabin and tapered rear, the show car looks more like an elegant coupé than an SUV when viewed side-on. The body tapers to the rear, approaching the ideal aerodynamic shape of a teardrop. The distinctive front end with the octagonal Singleframe grille emphasizes the width of the vehicle and gives it an unmistakable presence on the road.
Hidden at the bottom behind a tinted sensor rack are the sensors for piloted driving and driver assist systems. The cooling air for the electric motor flows exclusively through a narrow slit at the bottom to the radiator and escapes from the engine compartment, not downward in the usual way but upward through a louver on the front hood, avoiding unwanted turbulence under the floor of the car. Aerodynamics have been optimized even in places you can’t see — the entire underbody is fully encapsulated to minimize drag. To make it even more streamlined, its middle section has a drag-reducing microriblet film as on the Le Mans prototypes and the outer sections also have a bionic microstructure.
The taut headlights are less for aerodynamic than for distinct visual effect. For the first time, they use innovative Matrix Laser technology to produce low and high beam light. Operating without any mechanical components, the system is able to precisely mask out individual elements such as pedestrians or oncoming vehicles. Then there is the new Audi e-tron light signature: Five horizontal and four vertical OLED elements
in each headlight emitting a homogeneous blue can produce different light scenarios. OLED stands for “organic light emitting diode.” In each OLED unit, two electrodes — of which at least one must be transparent — enclose numerous thin layers of organic semi-conductor material. A low DC voltage, three to four volts, activates the layers, each of which is less than one-thousandth of a millimeter thick, to light them. The color depends on the molecular composition of the light source. In contrast to point light sources such as LEDs, which are made of semi-conductor crystals, OLEDs are flat light sources. The light they produce reaches a new level of homogeneity and can be dimmed continuously. It casts no shadow and does not require reflectors, light guides or other similar optical components — making OLEDs very efficient and light. In addition, they require very little cooling. This is the first time they have been implemented in this form.
Another world first adorns the stretched roof of the Audi e-tron quattro concept: Measuring 198 centimeters in length, this is the longest solar panel ever integrated into a car. Its peak output of around 400 watts effectively supports the car’s energy balance. When the Audi e-tron quattro concept is in the sun, the solar cells feed electricity into the batteries and can contribute up to 720 kilometers of range per year. But it’s even more desirable not to consume energy in the first place — for this, the developers have given the show car numerous other aerodynamic features. Instead of conventional door mirrors, tiny cameras deliver images for virtual mirrors in the interior. The aerodynamically optimized wheels and small air outlets behind the front wheel cutouts reduce turbulence in the wheel arches. Or take, for instance, the door handles that lie flush with the body, light up when the driver approaches and then slide out electrically. The same applies to the end segments of the rocker panels, which extend outward by 50 millimeters when the car is traveling at higher speeds and so guide the airstream smoothly past the rear wheel cutouts. To minimize turbulence at the rear, the roof edge spoiler extends by 120 millimeters and the diffusor by 80 millimeters at high speeds. Together, these measures make the Audi e-tron quattro concept an icon of aerodynamic efficiency in its class: With a drag coeffi cient of 0.25, the big car puts even supposedly streamlined mid-size sedans in the shade.
The show car also raises the bar when it comes to the drive system, with three power units guaranteeing refined performance. Dr. Volker Kaese: “When all three electric motors are working together, they provide 370 kW of power and 800 Nm of torque in boost mode — allowing the car to accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in 4.6 seconds and rapidly reach its electronically limited top speed of 210 km/h.” A control unit continuously determines the optimum constellation between highest effi ciency and maximum performance. At low loads, the front axle power unit propels the car on its own, but when more power is needed the show car becomes an electric quattro®, with the two motors on the rear axle cutting in automatically. The drive control unit with its intelligent control strategy distributes the torque actively and at lightning speed between the two wheels as required, providing maximum performance and stability in every driving situation. The energy required for this is stored in a large block of lithium-ion batteries with an energy capacity of 95 kW/h. Bolted to the underbody between the axles under the passenger cell, this also performs a structural function. When driving, the Audi e-tron quattro concept recuperates a high degree of energy: In light to moderate braking maneuvers, it decelerates exclusively via the electric motors, recuperating energy. It’s only during hard braking that the hydraulic brake system springs into action — yet another factor contributing to the car’s range of more than 500 kilometers on a full charge.
Just as innovative as the body and drive is the interior, its taut lines and sinewy surfaces creating a light and airy feel. It has a floating console and additional storage compartments made possible by the absence of a center tunnel. The pronounced threedimensional control panel architecture of the performance SUV is focused clearly on the driver, who is kept informed of all vehicle functions by means of innovative OLED displays. With its brilliant display and curvature, the central Audi virtual cockpit guarantees optimum readability. Its basic menu presents information on speed, battery charge status and current range. To the left and right of it are two touch displays that control the light functions, the systems for piloted driving as well as media lists and navigation maps. Two further displays are located on the center tunnel console. One of them is embedded in the console and shows the current status of the drive system, while the other visualizes the air conditioning system, which is controlled by virtual sliders. Each of the displays extends all the way to the edge of the screen, utilizing every square centimeter. Another two displays are integrated in the front of the door trim panels. They act as digital door mirrors, displaying bright, high-contrast and glare-free images from the cameras on the doors even under poor light conditions. Passengers also benefit from numerous innovations. Despite the car’s extremely sporty shape, there is still suffi cient headroom in the rear, and the feel-good factor is enhanced by a new air-conditioning feature: Air vents integrated in the front seats provide diff use and hence very comfortable ventilation for rear-seat passengers.
The high-tech sophistication is also echoed in the chassis of the Audi e-tron quattro concept. The adaptive air suspension sport system, adjustable via Audi drive select, lowers the body by up to 30 mm in two stages and thus likewise reduces drag. Newly developed ceramic brake disks on the front and rear axles provide outstanding deceleration. An Audi dynamic steering system ensures optimum agility and stability. With steering angles of up to 5 degrees on the rear wheels, it enhances maneuvering in city traffic and on country roads while guaranteeing refined steering behavior on the highway.
This may all sound a little like tomorrow’s world, but the future is already at the door. “In early 2018, we will introduce a battery-powered sporty SUV in the luxury class segment,” says Prof. Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg, Member of the Board of Management for Technical Development at AUDI AG, adding: “The Audi e-tron quattro concept gives us a tangible preview of what it will look like.”
Hermann Müller (copy), Mierswa-Kluska (photos)