Audi has unveiled its new space age Audi urbansphere concept car which features an all-electric powertrain. Systematically designed from the inside out, the designers and engineers have created this electric vehicle (EV) primarily for use in traffic of Chinese megacities.
In these large metropolitan areas, where personal space is in short supply, the concept car offers the largest interior space of any Audi car to date. In addition, it intelligently coordinates this with technologies and digital services that appeal to all the senses and thus offer a new quality of experience.
It was developed in a collaboration between Audi’s design studios in Beijing and its headquarters in Ingolstadt. For the first time, potential customers in China also took part, contributing their own desires and experiences to the development process.
The result of this process can be seen in the Audi urbansphere concept, above all in the interior. Inside, the spacious automobile acts as a lounge on wheels and mobile office. The new concept electric vehicle (EV) serves as a third living space during the hours spent in traffic.
As a result, it combines the luxury of privacy with a comprehensive range of high-tech features. It includes Level 4 automated driving technology which transforms the interior, without the need for a steering wheel, pedals or displays, into an interactive mobile space.
Audi skysphere, Audi grandsphere and Audi urbansphere are the three concept cars that the brand is using to showcase its vision of the premium mobility of tomorrow. The German carmaker is creating a vehicle experience that goes far beyond the purpose of merely spending time in a car to get from point A to point B.
In August Last year, Audi debuted the electrically-powered skysphere concept roadster, which was a vision of an autonomous GT that transforms itself into a self-driving sports car with a variable wheelbase.
A few weeks later, Audi unveiled the second model in the sphere series, the Audi grandsphere concept, at the IAA 2021. This large, prestigious four-seater saloon represents the brand’s ambition to define the future of progressive luxury.
What both concept cars have in common with the Audi urbansphere is that the entire concept is derived from the ability to drive in a level 4 autonomous vehicle. This is a technology that Audi is working towards introducing in the second half of the decade together with CARIAD, the Volkswagen Group’s software think tank.
The Audi urbansphere uses the brand’s Premium Platform Electric (PPE) which was designed exclusively for battery-electric drive systems. The key element of the PPE is a battery module between the axles, which holds around 120kWh of energy.
Audi has succeeded in achieving a flat layout for the battery by using almost the entire base of the vehicle between the axles. The core benefits include a long interior and therefore legroom in both rows of seats. Additionally, the absence of a gearbox cover and a cardan tunnel increases spatial comfort in electric cars.
The Audi urbansphere concept’s two electric motors are capable of delivering a total output of 295kW (401ps) and torque of 690Nm. These are impressive figures that are often not fully utilised when driving as part of a convoy in urban traffic. The Audi urbansphere is also equipped with quattro permanent four-wheel drive.
The concept car features one electric motor each on the front and rear axles which, by using electronic coordination, implements the permanently available all-wheel-drive as required and, above all, with a view to economy and range.
An innovative feature is that the motor on the front axle can be deactivated as required to reduce friction and thus energy consumption when coasting.
Fast Charging, High Range
The heart of the drive system is the 800-volt charging technology. It ensures that the battery can be charged with up to 270kW at fast-charging stations in the shortest possible time.
With a charging time of just 10 minutes providing enough charge to power the car for more than 186 miles (300km), it means this vehicle’s charging time is approaching those of a conventional stop to refuel a car powered by an internal combustion engine (ICE).
Plus, the battery, which holds more than 120kWh, can be charged from 5 to 80 percent in less than 25 minutes. This means that a range of up to 466 miles (750km) can be expected, and even when used for more energy-intensive city and short-distance trips, it is possible to avoid making unexpected charge stops.
The Audi urbansphere concept is the largest model in the sphere family measuring 5,510mm long, 2,010mm wide, and 1,780mm tall, with a wheelbase of 3,400mm.
This means the interior of the Audi urbansphere isn’t trying to squeeze in as many seats, storage compartments and other functional elements as with a conventional car. Instead, it provides passengers with a generous space offering a distinctive element of comfort.
The Audi urbansphere frees the driver from the burden of driving whenever possible and offers a wide variety of options and customisable experiences, whether this is for communication or relaxation, work or a retreat.
Thanks to Audi’s own options and the ability to integrate digital services from other providers, the possibilities are nearly endless. These can be used to access a wide range of services related to the current trip.
The vehicle also takes care of everyday tasks that go beyond the ride itself, such as making dinner reservations or shopping online from the car. In addition, the autonomous Audi urbansphere concept picks up its passengers at home and independently takes care of finding a parking space and charging the battery.
The doors of the Audi urbansphere concept are counter-hinged at the front and the rear, with no B-pillar. As a result, the interior opens up to passengers as soon as they climb in. Seats that swivel outward and a red carpet of light projected onto the ground next to the vehicle transform the simple act of entering the car.
Once inside, the concept offers the feeling of first-class air travel, with four individual seats in two rows offering passengers luxurious comfort. The seats in the rear offer generous dimensions with a wide range of adjustment options. Plus, they can be swivelled around for passengers to face each other.
In Relax and Entertain modes, the backrest can be tilted up to 60 degrees while leg rests extend at the same time. The centre-mounted armrests integrated into the sides of the seats and their counterparts in the doors create a comforting feeling of security. Each seat also has its own sound zone with speakers in the headrest area. Individual monitors are also built into the backs of the front seats.
When passengers want to use the infotainment system together, there is a large-format and transparent OLED screen that pivots vertically from the roof area into the zone between the rows of seats.
Using this “cinema screen,” which occupies the entire width of the interior, the two passengers in the back row can take part in a video conference together or watch a movie.
Even split-screen use is possible. When the screen is not in use, it offers a clear view to the front thanks to its transparent design, or when folded upwards, also through the glass roof area to the sky.
Like in the Audi grandsphere concept, the interior of the urbansphere blends space and architecture, digital technology, and authentic materials into a single entity. The lines emphasise the vehicle’s horizontal proportions.
Many of the materials in the interior of the Audi urbansphere concept, such as the hornbeam veneers, come from sustainable sources. This wood makes it possible to use wood that has grown close to the site and the entire boot can be utilised. During processing, the manufacturers do not use any chemicals.
The seat padding is made of ECONYL, a recycled polyamide. This material can also be recycled after its use in the automobile without any loss of quality. Bamboo viscose fabric is used in the armrests and the rear of the vehicle. Bamboo grows faster than ordinary wood, sequesters a great deal of carbon, and doesn’t require herbicides or pesticides to grow.
It all sounds like true first-class sustainable travel and we look forward to seeing how this progresses and influences Audi’s cars in its electric future. Our only worry is the concept being aimed for use in traffic jams and for work. Both of which we would hope would be reduced in the future.