Audi concept car demonstrates future of sporty driving

Audi concept car demonstrates future of sporty driving

Technology News |
By Christoph Hammerschmidt

Under the name “skysphere concept”, Audi will present its latest concept vehicle at the Monterey Car Week in California on 13 August. Three of them are planned, one each for different automotive use cases – the skyshpere roadster, the grandsphere luxury sedan and the urbanshpere city car.

The skysphere is equipped with a whole range of innovative features and design characteristics that offer a glimpse of the future of electric, in part highly automated and thoroughly digitalised driving. For example, the skysphere is of course electrically powered, as a classic sports car naturally via the rear axle. The car is equipped with a single motor, but one that delivers quite a lot of power: With 465 kW and a torque of 750 Nm, the thing accelerates to 100 km/h in 4 seconds. The batteries are not distributed under the vehicle cabin, as is the case with most electric cars, but for the most part behind it. In this way, the Audi designers want to shift the centre of gravity to the rear axle and improve traction. However, some of the batteries are also hidden in the rather voluminous centre tunnel. This gives the batteries a total capacity of 80 kWh. This should be enough for a range of 500 km – though not when using full acceleration, but in the rather sedate eco mode.

The layout of the interior is no longer determined by the constraints of conventional drives. The steering is purely electronic as a “steer-by-wire” system, acting on both the front and – to achieve greater agility – the rear axle. The steer-by-wire approach has allowed the designers to dispense with a mechanical link between the steering wheel and the axle. This makes it possible, in Level 4 automated mode, to retract the steering wheel and remove it from the driver’s immediate area. This gives the driver more space and allows him to devote himself to other activities – such as watching a video on the wide screen together with the passenger. Another advantage of the steer-by-wire system is that the steering ratios can be set to the desired value at the touch of a button and using software.

A peculiarity of the skysphere that has not been realised anywhere else so far is that the length of the body can be varied by 25 cm as required and according to the driving mode. In “Sports” mode, the car is comparatively compact and agile with a length of 4.94 m; in comfortable GT mode, the car “grows” to an overall length of 5.19 m. The wheelbase changes analogously. This change in length is motorised by a complex mechanism with interlocking body and frame components.

The steer-by-wire concept anables a retractable steering wheel without mechanical components

The active chassis plays an important role in the skysphere’s versatile driving characteristics, and here, too, electronics play a central role. During relaxed gliding, individual wheels are raised or lowered in a targeted manner to compensate for unevenness and undulations in the road surface. This is where the digital forecasts of the navigation and the control and actuation of the chassis are combined – the chassis control system thus receives its information via highly accurate and temporally up-to-date data from the virtual map.

In the interior, the most striking feature is the wide touch-monitor surface, which, at 1.40 metres wide, almost reaches from the door. This allows media content from the web, video conferences or streamed films to be displayed – assuming the appropriate driving mode.

After its debut in California, the skysphere will also be shown at the IAA fair in Munich in September.

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