Published on April 20th, 2022 | by Subhash Nair0
Audi urbansphere Concept Was Designed From The Inside Out
Audi presents an interior-focused autonomous vehicle vision with the urbansphere concept.
When it comes to autonomous car concepts, many manufacturers are looking at making interiors more like living spaces. Audi has been exploring these ideas recently with the skysphere and grandsphere concepts. Now they’ve added the urbansphere to complete the collection.
The urbansphere was designed from the inside out using the traffic-heavy cities of China as a basis of where the car would naturally be. It has the largest interior space of any Audi built to date with design work coming from Beijing and Ingolstadt.
It acts as a lounge on wheels and as a mobile office with high tech features on board with no steering wheel, pedals or driver displays.
Here’s the press release with more.
Even at first glance, the Audi urbansphere concept reveals itself to be the largest model in the sphere family and of all Audi concept cars to date. Its grand dimensions – 5.51 meters (18 feet) long, 2.01 meters (6.6 feet) wide, and 1.78 meters (5.8 feet) high – place it in the upper echelons of the automotive world, yet the Audi urbansphere concept radically breaks with the conventions of the segment.
This is because it has been systematically designed around its passengers, from the inside out. The most important dimension is the unrivaled wheelbase of 3.40 meters (11.2 feet). The interior of the Audi urbansphere is not subject to the conventional maxim of squeezing as many seats, storage compartments, and functional elements as possible into a space limited by the physics of driving. Instead, it prioritizes the occupants’ need to experience ample space as a distinctive comfort factor.
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.
Customized infotainment offerings are also available, such as the seamless integration of onboard music and video streaming services. Audi will also offer customers exclusive perks, including access to concerts, cultural events, and sporting events based on their individual preferences.
The architecture – from the inside out
Even the “sphere” in the name sends a signal: the heart of the Audi skysphere, grandsphere, and urbansphere concept vehicles lies in its interior. That makes the inner space the foundation of the vehicle’s design and technology and therefore the occupants’ living and experience sphere while on the road.
Their needs and desires shape this space, its architecture, and all of the integrated functions. As a result of this shift, the design process itself also changes. At the beginning of all discussions, the focus is solely on the interior. Only then are the package, exterior lines, and proportions designed, along with the technological specifications, turning the automobile into a complete work of art.
Space concept for the luxury class – exterior design
A grand, undoubtedly self-assured appearance – the Audi urbansphere concept is certain to leave a lasting first impression. A length of 5.5 meters (18 feet), height of almost 1.78 meters (5.8 feet), and width of more than two meters (6.6 feet) are undoubtedly prestigious enough to rub shoulders with the automotive elite.
The flowing silhouette of the vehicle body features traditional Audi shapes and elements, which are combined here to create a new composition featuring the distinctive Singleframe, with the digital eyes of the adjacent lighting units, a widely curved, dynamic roof arch, a massive rocker panel that conceals the battery unit, large 24-inch six double spoke wheels (a reference to the iconic 90’s Audi Avus concept car) which convey lightweight design and stability, reminiscent of functional motorsport wheels and the Bauhaus tradition of the brand’s design.
The implied wedge shape of the vehicle body is emphasized by the large, flat windshield. At the front and also at the rear, there are large digital lighting surfaces that leave their mark on the design and at the same time serve as communication elements.
The Audi urbansphere defies classification into conventional vehicle categories. Nevertheless, it reveals itself to be a typical Audi at first glance. The similarities to the Audi grandsphere concept are particularly eye-catching. The monolithic design of the vehicle body shares commonalities with these two concept cars, as do the sculpted, soft shape of the wheel arches. A long wheelbase of well over three meters (9.8 feet) and short overhangs indicate that this is an electric vehicle. Elegance, dynamism, an organic design language – these are the attributes that immediately spring to mind despite the stately proportions of the Audi urbansphere, just as they do in the significantly flatter grandsphere.
Visible technology – light
In the front end, there is an innovative interpretation of the Singleframe that defines Audi’s look: it is shaped like a large octagon. Even though the grille has lost its original function as an air intake on the EV, it still remains prominent as an unmistakable signature of the brand. The digital light surface lies behind a slightly tinted, transparent visor that covers a large area of the front. The three-dimensional light structure itself is arranged in dynamically condensed pixel areas. The upper and lower edges of the Singleframe are still made of aluminum and the vertical connections are formed by LEDs as part of the light surface.
The entire surface of the Singleframe becomes a stage or canvas (known as the “Audi Light Canvas”) and can be used for communication – with dynamic lighting effects to clearly signal to other road users in order to improve road safety. Low beams and high beams are implemented via light segments in the outer sections of the Singleframe and a similarly functioning matrix LED surface is located in the rear.
The lighting units to the right and left of the Singleframe look narrow, like focused eyes. These digital lighting units, known as Audi Eyes, echo the logo of the brand with the four rings, as they enlarge and isolate the intersection of two rings to form a pupil – a new, unmistakable digital light signature.
The illuminated surfaces – and therefore the expression of the eyes – can be adapted to the traffic situation, environment, or even the mood of the passengers. As a daytime running light, the gaze can be focused or open, and the iris can be narrow or wide.
A digitally created eyebrow also functions as a dynamic turn signal when required. Thanks to its outstanding visibility, it makes an unmistakable statement in the service of safety.
One special tribute to China is a luminous accessory that passengers can take with them when they leave their Audi urbansphere – the Audi Light Umbrella, a self-illuminating umbrella. Inspired by traditional Chinese umbrellas, this one acts as a protective companion and multifunctional light source – the inner skin of the umbrella is made of reflective material, so the entire surface acts as a glare-free lighting unit.
The Audi Light Umbrella not only gives users a better view of their path, it becomes more visible – when crossing a street or in dangerous situations, activating a rhythmic flashing of the luminous cone by means of artificial intelligence and sophisticated sensor technology.
And the Light Umbrella also literally places its wearer in the best possible light, given that it evenly illuminates their face for perfect selfies whenever needed.
Drive system and charging
The technology platform of the Audi urbansphere – the Premium Platform Electric or PPE – was designed exclusively for battery-electric drive systems and therefore takes full advantage of all the benefits of this technology. The key element of the PPE is a battery module between the axles, which – as in the Audi grandsphere – holds around 120 kilowatt hours 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.
Together with the large 24-inch wheels, this produces basic proportions that are perfect not only from a design perspective. 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 295 kilowatts and a system torque of 690 newton meters. These are impressive figures that are often not fully utilized when driving in dense urban traffic. Nevertheless, the Audi urbansphere is still equipped with permanent quattro four-wheel drive – an essential feature for the brand’s high-performance models.
The concept car has one electric motor on each of the front and rear axles which, by means of electronic coordination, implements the permanently available all-wheel drive as required, balancing these perfectly against economy and range requirements.
One innovative feature is that the motor on the front axle can be deactivated as required in order 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 270 kilowatts at fast-charging stations in the shortest possible time. As such, charging times approach those of a conventional stop to refuel a car powered by an internal combustion engine: just ten minutes are enough to charge the battery to a level sufficient to power the car more than 300 kilometers (186 miles). In addition, the battery, which holds more than 120 kilowatt hours, can be charged from 5 to 80 percent in less than 25 minutes. This means that a range of up to 750 kilometers (466 miles) can be expected according to the WLTP standard – and even when used for more energy-intensive city and short-distance trips, it is generally possible to avoid making unexpected stops to charge.
Air suspension for maximum comfort
The front wheels are connected via a 5-link axle that has been specially optimized for electric vehicles. In the rear, there is a multi-link axle that, like the front axle, is made of lightweight aluminum. Despite the long 3.40 meter (11 foot) wheelbase, the steerable rear wheels provide excellent maneuverability.
The Audi urbansphere concept, like its closest relative the grandsphere, features Audi adaptive air suspension – a single-chamber air suspension system with semi-active damper control. It offers outstanding comfort not only on city highways, but even on the uneven, often patched asphalt of downtown streets with no noticeable body movement.