Audi’s talents at engineering future technology stretches all the way back to its earliest days, with cars like the ‘Ugly Duckling’ concept of the 1920s having engineering and design qualities that were years ahead of their rivals. Unfortunately the 1920s car never made it past the drawing board, but in recent times Audi’s confidence and financial might has allowed it to produce some futuristic concepts that are far more likely to make production. We take a look at four of Audi’s most interesting concept cars of the 21st century and evaluate their engineering and design talents:
A car that passed concept stage and was built 10 times as a prototype, the R8 e-tron looks like a normal R8, but that’s about where the similarities end. In an attempt to showcase its fantastic ability to produce efficient performance cars, Audi produced the R8 e-tron as RWD only in order to save weight by removing four-wheel drive components. Torque vectoring ensures the rear-wheel drive electric car still pulls through corners with fantastic bite and agility though, adjusting power to the two rear motors accordingly to ensure tight angles are maintained whilst maximising acceleration potential.
The motors in question both produce 190bhp, so 380bhp combined, enabling the battery-powered R8 to shove its way up to 60mph in just 4.2 seconds and on to a limited top speed of 125mph. The car won’t make production however, because Audi believes it fails to meet any form of demand from its customers. Thanks to the limited range (135 miles maximum but significantly less at speed) and expensive construction costs, Audi would not only make no money on the car, it believes customers wouldn’t want one either.
Audi has made use of the 10 model’s that were made however, by using them as test beds for the whole of Volkswagen Group’s electric motor and battery technology development. So despite never being put on sale, the R8 e-tron will no doubt be partly responsible for electric technology in production Audi’s of the future.
Continuing with electric power, the next concept in this list is perhaps more important to the future of Audi than any sports car. The A1 e-tron, a small hatchback powered entirely by electricity, could represent the brand’s future for its mass-produced cars. With the majority of people in developed countries living in urban environments, and most journeys falling well within the limits of an electric car, cars like the A1 e-tron concept could well and truly be part of a future of electric urban transport.
Producing zero emissions directly, and 45 grams of CO2/km indirectly, the e-tron is highly efficient. It can even produce around 100bhp, meaning it is more than powerful enough to dart between city streets and traffic lights. No confirmation of when this car could reach production lines has been mentioned, however with demand for evermore efficient urban vehicles increasing, and rival manufacturers already selling electric hatchbacks, there’s a strong chance Audi has something small and electric to follow in the A1 e-tron’s tyre treads soon enough.
e-tron Spyder hybrid
Perhaps representing the not so distant future, this hybrid Audi sports car concept draws on knowledge from marque’s racing programme to use a diesel combustion engine and electric motors alongside eachother. The resulting three-litre TDI engine and twin electric motor package enables the Spyder to accelerate up to 62mph in just 4.4 seconds, but still achieve a combined economy figure of 128.4mpg and emission figures as low as 59 grams of CO2/km.
Audi’s impressive weight saving techniques have also been employed in this concept, with the total kerb weight amounting to just 1450kg, helping to ensure this open top hybrid handles like a proper sports car. Despite remaining a concept car, with the amount of knowledge Audi has in developing hybrid diesel platforms, it is at least likely that this sort of efficient yet exciting sports car will be included in Audi’s not too distant future line up.
Aside from its futuristic lighting systems, Audi Sport’s latest Laserlight concept is also very interesting in several other ways. The first being that it is a direct homage to Audi’s legendary quattro from the early 1980s, but secondly because this modern example features a hybrid power-train, made up of a four-litre bi-turbo V8 engine and single electric motor. Also utilising Audi’s Cylinder on Demand (CoD) technology, whereby four of the eight cylinders can be deactivated to save fuel, this concept car represents a concoction of high performance combustion engine and efficiency improving, emission reducing technologies.
The combination of all of these technologies and ideas in one car could represent the future of motoring for Audi Sport, where performance is increased thanks to forced induction and efficiency maximised due to CoD and electric power. As a result Audi’s plans to put this car into production have created masses of excitement amongst petrol heads and technology lovers alike.
Top Gear. [Online] Available at: http://www.topgear.com/uk/car-news/audi-r8-e-tron-first-drive-car-review-2013-05-2013
Audi Concept Cars. Audi A1 e-tron. [Online] Available at: http://www.audi.co.uk/audi-innovation/concept-cars/a1-e-tron.html
Audi Concept Cars. Audi e-tron Spyder hybrid. [Online] Available at: http://www.audi.co.uk/audi-innovation/concept-cars/audi-e-tron-spyder-hybrid.html
Audi Concept Cars. Audi Laserlight concept. [Online] Available at: http://www.audi.co.uk/audi-innovation/concept-cars/audi-laserlight-concept.html