Audi future lab: mobility – Audi Urban Future
Audi urban future
For years now, Audi has been setting benchmarks in vehicle design with its innovative show cars and technical concept cars – including quite recently. The Audi e-bike Wörthersee, for example, was conceptualized as a radical piece of sports equipment, while the Audi urban concept Spyder took the form of an ultra-light sports car with an electric drive. Whether on two or four wheels – what the two vehicles have in common is a concentrated, taut design language. Audi designers are thinking many years ahead in systematically evolving this design language. Always central to this thinking are the Audi core competencies e-tron, ultra and connect, which are also expressed in design.
The role of the car will change in future mobility. It will acquire even more capabilities and intelligence and become a “mobile device” – a tool for mobility with smart networking and communication solutions. New lightweight and efficient vehicles will increasingly populate the big cities. In some projects, Audi designers are working closely with students from international design colleges, to learn from young creative people how they perceive the mobile world of the future and to then transfer these findings to the Audi brand.
The Audi Urban Future Initiative, founded over two years ago, is a global forum that brings together experts from different cultures and disciplines. This is a place where architects, sociologists, urban planners and trend researchers meet to discuss new approaches to finding mobility solutions for rapidly growing metropolises. The range of topics is diverse. In some cities, the focus is on seamless mobility that interconnects different transportation modes, while in other metropolises the goal is to achieve flexible use of urban space. Intelligent communication between car and city is another theme.
An important component of the initiative is the Audi Urban Future Award that Audi created in 2010. It is Germany’s largest monetary prize for an architectural competition, and it is awarded every two years. In this year’s competition, five international architectural firms will address issues within their respective metropolitan areas: CRIT (Mumbai), Höweler & Yoon Architecture (Boston/Washington), NODE Architecture & Urbanism (Pearl River Delta), Superpool (Istanbul) and Urban-Think Tank (São Paulo).
The core topics of the Award are underpinned and discussed in research partnerships and workshops. At the Summit, a large symposium for networking knowledge that was held in advance of the Frankfurt International Motor Show in 2011, Audi brought experts from across the globe together at a roundtable. The Audi Insight Team, a small, active group of Audi employees from different work areas, transfers the many ideas of the Audi Urban Future Initiative into the company.
Audi Urban Future Initiative
The initiative is an interdisciplinary forum that networks creative thinkers – architects, sociologists, city planners and trend researchers – across the whole world, bridging the gaps between experts of various disciplines, cultures and perspectives. Their joint discussions target an analysis of mobility in the megacities of the world and seek to find possible solutions.
Besides covering technical aspects, the findings and ideas resulting from this process also incorporate social, environmental and aesthetic aspects. The goal is to merge actual local conditions and possibilities for a sustainable mobile future. The range of topics is as multifaceted as the megacities themselves: In some cities what is needed is flexible, spontaneous use of public space, while in others the focus is on seamless mobility that combines different modes of transportation.
Grand futuristic visions also have their place in the Audi Urban Future Initiative – such as the idea of the city as a continual flow of movement without stationary traffic. Another topic is intelligent communication between car and city. Today, Audi is already developing technologies for such scenarios – solutions for piloted driving as well as car-to-X-communication under the heading of Audi connect.
An important component of the Audi Urban Future Initiative is the Award that Audi created in 2010; with a prize of 100,000 Euros, it is the most lucrative architectural competition in Germany. This year, Audi will be offering the Award for the second time; the competition revolves around the question of how mobility can become an engine of urban development.
The five participating architectural and urban planning firms are: CRIT (Mumbai), Höweler & Yoon Architecture (Boston/Washington), NODE Architecture & Urbanism (Pearl River Delta), Superpool (Istanbul) and Urban-Think Tank (São Paulo).
All of these firms are drawing up concepts for the metropolitan regions in which they reside. In May, the participants already met for an introductory workshop in Ingolstadt – the “Metropolis & Mobility Dialogue” – where they presented their ideas and discussed them with Audi experts. In October, an international jury will announce the prize winner in Istanbul.
Core topics of the Award are underpinned by research partnerships and workshops and are discussed with Audi employees. At the Summit that was held in advance of the Frankfurt International Motor Show in 2011, Audi experts from across the globe were summoned to a roundtable. The ensuing discussion addressed the need to overcome entrenched thinking and take up new sustainable paths towards a mobile urban future. The topic was “Energies – what are the forces that will reshape the cities of the future?”
The current research program consists of two projects with Columbia University in New York. The Audi Urban Future Initiative is creating a global network of experts here that is developing an academic knowledge base for future mobility scenarios while always relating this knowledge to local circumstances and discussing these relationships.
Audi designers are working today to shape the mobility of tomorrow, in all kinds of ways. A sport machine like the Audi e-bike Wörthersee is a bicycle technology concept intended to explore the limits of technical feasibility through the application of Audi’s brand competences “design,” “ultra,” “connect” and “e-tron.” A high-end pedelc show bike made by Audi for sport, fun and tricks. The Audi urban concept Spyder is an ultra-lightweight, electric-powered sports car featuring a radical concept and great versatility. Both technology studies have one important element in common: the taut, concentrated design language that characterizes the brand.
To further expand this global leadership role, the Audi designers are on the constant lookout for new impulses and approaches. Creative ideas are more important today than ever before, as the significance of the automobile will change greatly in the diverse mobility of the future.
For young customers, particularly those in Europe and the United States, the significance of the automobile as an individual status symbol is changing. Its expression of achievement and luxury will become secondary as new values gain increasing importance: those of sharing rather than owning, and integration into sustainable mobility. New needs, such as seamless networking with the community and wide-ranging interaction with the surroundings, have already been created and will become more firmly established. In the medium term, these requirements will lead to a new architecture for the automobile. At the same time, electric drive systems enable innovative packaging concepts that will make these changes possible.
The new role of the automobile in society will create space in major cities for other forms of individual mobility: for lean, lightweight and efficient vehicles with two, three or four wheels; for e-pedelecs, e-skateboards, e-trikes and e-quads. For now the ideas and possibilities are boundless. Audi designers are working to integrate these still young trends into a cohesive image, on the basis of which they will then develop the appropriate solutions for Audi.
A key tool for these innovations are the partnerships that Audi regularly engages in with renowned design schools throughout the world, most recently with Pforzheim University, the Royal College of Art in London and the Italian schools Milan Polytechnic University and Scuola Politecnica di Design.
The creative, open dialogue that the Audi designers engage in here with the students offers numerous advantages to both sides. The Design department learns from the young designers how they see the mobile world of the future and how they would like to see the brand’s design evolve. Together they develop design concepts for tomorrow. This can even help the young creative talents land a contract with Audi. The company regularly awards internships and diploma project positions, offering the best young designers an opportunity for a career at Audi. A dialogue with friction, so to speak, that ultimately provides both sides with many creative impulses.
Audi urban concept Spyder
The look of the technology study, painted in white, is dynamic and emotional, and ultra-lightweight design by Audi keeps its unladen weight at just 480 kg (1058 lb). The lean body, with a hexagonal single-frame grille at the front, combines a monocoque made of carbon fiber reinforced polymer with an aluminum structure; its exterior skin consists entirely of CFRP. A low band of windows that descends towards the rear surrounds the occupant cell on three sides.
Protective body panels with turn signal light strips made of LED light conductors cover the free-standing 21-inch wheels; they are suspended by wishbones that are also made of aluminum and CFRP. The springs and shock absorbers were designed in pushrod technology, as in race cars, while four disc brakes handle the braking.
A lithium-ion battery is mounted transversely behind the seats; it stores 7.1 kWh of energy. The two electric motors between the rear wheels produce a combined 15 kW (20 hp) of continuous power and 47 Nm (34.67 lb-ft) of torque. The car’s driving range in the European driving cycle is a full 70 km (43.50 miles). The urban concept Spyder is a forerunner of new smart mobility from Audi.
The seating concept also breaks from convention. It seats two persons in a slightly offset layout, and they sit in low, sporty positions. The long doors open forward and upward, and handles on the A-pillars make entry easier. Along with the open body version, Audi has also developed a closed coupé. Its roof can be slid open, and it can remain open underway.
All user controls and materials were subject to the strict dictate of ultra-lightweight design, so they convey a very special fascination. For example, the steering column is suspended in free space – it consists of a strong profile in elegant design, is mounted nearly horizontally and has a long adjustment range. The small, hexagonal steering wheel contains control buttons and rollers, including controls for the driving programs of the electric drive. A display directly in front of the driver shows all key information.