Audi makes light of its electric concepts

  • 26-Sep-2011 05:08 EDT
Audi9-11 A2 concept  b.jpg

Audi's pure-electric A2 concept focuses on light weight  design.

Audi created a trio of pure electric concepts for the Frankfurt Motor Show. Two of them, called Sportback and Spyder, were variations of a 1+1 seat ultra-light urban compact pure electric city car with free-standing 21-in wheels, a CFRP (carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic) bodyshell, and powered by two electric motors via a lithium-ion battery. The other was a pure electric, four-seat A2 described as a “technical study.”

The reduced-mass A2 concept is a thoroughly serious glimpse of a near-term potential production model. It uses a multimaterial mix in its construction is a svelte 1150 kg (2535 lb), with a lithium-ion battery neatly sandwiched in a double floor configuration. Audi is claiming that its motor (no power figures yet) will provide 200-km (124-mi) range and a 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) time of 9.3 s. Further advanced technology aspects include shift-, brake-, and steer-by-wire.

The car uses Audi Space Frame (ASF) construction with a bodyshell of aluminum and CFRP to minimize weight, while its wheels incorporate what Audi coyly describes as “cladding technology” to reduce mass by some 2 kg (4.4 lb) each.

The car’s lithium-ion battery can be recharged via a 400-V three-phase source in 1.5 or 4 h using a domestic 230-V current. A charging socket and cooling water connection are tucked away behind the car’s mainly solid nose panel, which is shaped like Audi’s signature radiator grille. Its lower section, which is a grille, is an air inlet for graphite-foam cooling elements.

For operation in slow-moving city traffic, the concept has a semi-autonomous driving capability controlled by the driver by applying pressure simultaneously to a pair of touch pads. The system is based on adaptive cruise control.

Although the five-door hatchback A2 concept is only 3804 mm (149.8 in) long, 1693 mm (66.7) wide, and 1494 mm (58.8 in) tall—a little shorter and wider than the original A2 but around 60 mm (2.4 in) lower, it has seating for four adults. The dashboard is divided into two sections, one of which is semi-circular, partly enclosing the driver’s area.

With its sandwich floor, there is no center tunnel and a console between the front seats can be lowered to facilitate passengers moving laterally across the vehicle’s interior.

Achieving draft-free heating and cooling air flows has long been a target for Volkswagen Group vehicles as evidenced some years ago by the VW Phaeton sedan; the A2 concept aims to do this via a perforated surface beneath the windshield.

The steering wheel is flattened at its upper and lower circumference and has a single spoke. Instruments include a main 7-in display and secondary displays for speedometer and power meter.

Seats use an aluminum chassis with a blow-molding process used for their shells. The seats are mounted on three struts that facilitate added floor space for rear seat passengers. The luggage compartment has a sandwich floor, and a city bicycle can be carried between the rear seats. The panoramic roof has electronically controlled opaque and clear view settings.

Light systems as well as light weight play a significant role in the A2 concept. When the car’s drive system is switched on, an animated band of light encircles driver and passenger and the two touch pads unfold close to the steering wheel.

The car has matrix beam headlights that incorporate a package of LEDs and micro reflectors to create a high-resolution non-glare high beam in addition to an LED low beam. Intelligent rear lights adjust intensity automatically to ambient conditions. The rear foglight beam is produced by laser diodes and can project a red triangle warning onto a road surface.

A light band stretching from the car's front to rear just below the glasshouse line incorporates approach sensors to “recognize” the driver and unlock doors and when the turn indicators are operated, a pulse of light passes down the band.

The original production A2 was an aluminum-intensive design manufactured from late 1999 to 2005. It was expensive to build and that cost was carried forward to the showroom, which hindered sales, although it is now much sought after and is regarded by some as a modern classic. Production totaled just over 176,000. The 2011 A2 concept looks far less quirky and could be 2-3 years from production.

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