After all, light encompasses multiple aspects at Audi: illumination, safety, support and differentiation on the road. It is a functional component of our vehicles and at the same time an expression of the Audi brand’s emotive design.
Light consists of individual elements and the lighting technology at Audi is just as multilayered. Our developers need to factor in many aspects: the high quality of the technology, the design of the headlights and lamps, the safety aspect with various dimming and illumination systems, as well as efficient energy production for optimum brightness. On the exterior, Audi has been combining all these features for over 20 years in the second-generation xenon headlights. In 2004, Audi became the world’s first carmaker to present the LED daytime running lights in the Audi A8 W12; other innovative developments such as the full-LED headlights or the dynamic indicators followed. Light is one of the USPs on vehicles and every Audi gets its very distinctive character in this way. The developments over the past few years also pursue the same goal and offer a unique combination of aesthetics and technology. For instance, the Matrix LED headlight premiered in 2013 provides situation-specific, dynamic illumination of the road with its individual light-emitting diodes. At the same time, the headlight characterises the vehicle with an unmistakable lighting signature, which makes all Audi models equally unmistakable whatever the time of day. In addition to the xenon and LED technology, the Audi experts are also working on the use of laser units for the model line-up. To date an additional laser spot has only been fitted to the Audi R8 LMX Edition model and to the Audi R8 successor since 2014; it provides twice the range of illumination as conventional high beams. Soon, however, other Audi models will also offer their drivers this extraordinarily brilliant laser light – while the model-specific illumination technology is always sure to make every model stand out with its distinctive looks.
People. Employees. Audi employees.
Regardless of what type of engine powers our vehicles in future, the issue of lighting and illumination will always be important. Nonetheless, technologies such as piloted driving will change the future requirements placed on headlights, indicators and other lighting elements. Audi addresses these changes with a diverse team – lighting and electrical engineers, mechatronic engineers, physicists, product developers, mechanical engineers and designers with real enthusiasm for the element of light. Audi offers them all a unique, inspiring environment for developing design-relevant and functional lighting innovations. The underground lighting competence centre in Ingolstadt, which was inaugurated in 2015, opens up new opportunities, approaches and ideas. There the engineers can work alongside designers, suppliers and other colleagues to optimise quality, safety and design down to the smallest detail. The specialist Innovation department clearly demonstrates that the issue of light really is a key issue at Audi: it is the powerhouse behind the lighting technology and is responsible for the entire advanced development of lighting elements which will make our vehicles unique in future.
A glimpse of the future
Aesthetic, dynamic and interactive: these three notions characterise Audi lighting technology and design of the future. Based on the experience garnered over the past 20 years, the future developments are always tailored to the changing environment of our everyday lives. The innovative OLEDs (organic light-emitting diode) are no exception. As a flat light source OLEDs offer unprecedented light homogeneity, design scope for even more extraordinary designs and lots of development potential. Audi’s aim is to turn OLED units into a characteristic feature of all volume-production models – the new Audi TT RS will be the first vehicle with OLEDs in the rear light from autumn 2016. The further developments to create Matrix OLED technology as well as flexible OLEDs are already dominating our specialists’ daily work – always motivated essentially by improved energy efficiency, new possibilities of vehicle design and a huge increase in safety. The same also holds true for Matrix laser technology. Based on DMD technology (Digital Micromirror Device) – a matrix of hundreds of thousands of tiny micromirrors – the laser light beam provides precise, high-resolution illumination of the road. This not only ensures the right light in any situation, but also provides light animations and projected symbols, for safe, efficient vehicle guidance in complicated areas for instance.
The light that illuminates the automotive future takes many forms at Audi; it will, however, always focus squarely on the safety of the driver and other road users.
Our engineers look at the entire vehicle, and every single component is scrutinised. In order to minimise weight while meeting high functional requirements and safety standards, Audi relies on an intelligent material mix: aluminium, magnesium, ultra high-strength steels and fibre-reinforced polymers are used in the car wherever their specific properties fulfil the desired functions. All this enhances driving enjoyment and safety and reduces the amount of CO2 emitted by our vehicles.
At the IAA in 1993, Audi presented an innovative body concept made entirely of aluminium, the shimmering silver ASF study (Audi Space Frame). Only one year later, the unitary aluminium construction went into series production with the Audi A8. It was modelled on nature and its fascinating architecture. Audi development engineers are inspired by flora and fauna to this day, for example the structure of honeycombs or the skeletons of diverse creatures. Material is used only where it is really necessary to ensure stability.
In the past, aluminium was used for most Audi ASF models. But Audi is going one step further – with the Multimaterial Audi Space Frame. For the new Audi Q7, components made of aluminium are combined with components made of ultra high-strength steel, while for the second generation of the Audi R8 Coupé and Spyder, the aluminium is combined with carbon-fibre reinforced polymer (CFRP, also known as carbon). In addition, key technologies i.e. joining techniques permit material combinations that are light but at the same time highly functional. The advantages of Audi lightweight design are obvious: the lower weight significantly reduces the amount of CO2 produced by our vehicles and also has a positive effect on vehicle dynamics.
People. Employees. The Audi team
Lightweight design at Audi is not just about materials science or the responsibility of a single department – it is a fundamental element of our overall corporate strategy and mentality. Many different experts, primarily at the Neckarsulm plant – in the Lightweight Design Centre – are involved: from the design and functional layout of assemblies, development of new laser technologies and sensor systems for joining processes, quality assurance through to devising special service and repair options. They work closely with colleagues in other departments – for example with Production, the Pre-Series Centre and also Toolmaking – and with suppliers and external partners. Only when diverse specialists interact with each other and share information can innovative vehicle concepts evolve. At Audi, flexibility and the opportunity for employees to realise their own ideas are firmly established principles.
Glance into the future
There are many aspects to CO2-neutral mobility – one of them being material and lightweight design in our vehicles. Audi will therefore continue to promote a global standard for sustainable aluminium in the future, as this will further improve the environmental footprint of Audi vehicles. From a technical point of view, it remains our goal to halt the increase in vehicle weight. In addition to lightweight design technology for the body, new grades of material in conjunction with further enhanced joining techniques will play a key role. At the same time, future developments in the automotive industry will always be of significance to development engineers in the field of lightweight design, for example alternative drive systems, ever-increasing vehicle connectivity and also piloted vehicles that act independently.
Furthermore, the development of intelligent material mixes and their introduction in all Audi production models – not only in the body – will continue to dominate the working day of lightweight design experts: functions, material mix and cost efficiency must be further optimised and individually adapted to the respective vehicle segments.
Dynamic, flexible, versatile – these characteristics will continue to define Audi in terms of lightweight design in the years to come.
In terms of efficiency, the fuel cell is superior to any conventional combustion engine – the exhaust emits only a few drops of water. And what about filling up? This takes a matter of minutes, as with conventional engines.
Back in 2002, Audi entered the realm of fuel cell drive technology with the A2H2 test vehicle – developed in Neckarsulm, Baden-Württemberg. Several development stages later, Audi presented the A7 Sportback h-tron quattro in 2014 and the Audi h-tron quattro concept at the Detroit Auto Show in 2016. The SUV concept car combines sporty performance with sustainable mobility: its ultra-modern fuel cell alone – the fifth generation is lighter, more efficient and has a longer service life – delivers 110 kW. In conjunction with an auxiliary lithium-ion battery, an extra boost of 100 kW is available for short periods. This gives the Audi h-tron quattro concept a range of up to 600 kilometres on one tank of fuel.
One great advantage of fuel cell technology is that no emissions are produced when hydrogen is the energy source for the vehicle – so this drive technology is entirely in keeping with Audi’s goal of “ZERO EMISSIONS”. This is because Audi focuses completely on the eco-friendly option, even when producing the alternative energy source: Audi’s own e-gas plant in Werlte, Lower Saxony, uses wind power to split water into oxygen and hydrogen by means of electrolysis at a power-to-gas facility. In future, it will be possible to use this hydrogen in fuel cell vehicles. Today, in a further process, it is used with carbon dioxide – which would otherwise be a waste product – to synthesise Audi e-gas. Audi offers this e-gas as a sustainably produced fuel for its natural gas vehicles, the g-tron models. This is environment friendly and is produced without biomass, unlike bio-fuels made from corn, for example.
People. Employees. The Audi team.
Neckarsulm is the birthplace of Audi’s first test vehicle with fuel cell technology – today the site is the innovative centre of competence for hydrogen drive systems for the VW Group. Over the coming years, it will be further extended and will offer people with a pioneering spirit an exciting career developing a promising technology for the future. Concept and Series Development in Neckarsulm is responsible for the application of fuel cells in cars and for vehicle test runs on various test benches that were specially designed for this type of drive. A multi-talented team with diverse skills sets work on and at the fuel cell vehicles. This type of drive calls for in-depth expert knowledge, even in fields that were previously of little significance to vehicle development. Consequently, mechanical engineers and electrical engineers work closely with process engineers, physicists and electrochemists so that every component functions perfectly. At the same time, vehicles with this new fuel offer a high level of safety, as hydrogen safety experts have been involved from the outset. They analyse and evaluate the behaviour of the fuel cell module as well as the fuel itself in normal and specific operating conditions. We are looking for specialists in these many different fields who would like to accompany us on our journey towards emission-free mobility.
Glance into the future
The advantages of hydrogen technology are quite clear: the fuel is cost-effective, easy to produce from renewable sources and therefore available in practically unlimited quantities. For customers to be able to benefit, however, expansion of the infrastructure is vital. Similarly to the Audi e-tron and g-tron models, a comprehensive network of filling stations must be available to provide an appropriate level of convenience when driving an Audi h-tron. National regulations as well as close dialogue with the government and partners in the industry will therefore become increasingly important in the future. At the same time, Audi will continue to drive forward projects dealing with the production of hydrogen and other fuels from renewable sources.