High-performance sports car with electric drive: For the first time, Audi is presenting a design and technical concept car at Pebble Beach Automotive Week in Monterey, California. The all-electric Audi AI:RACE presents a radical vision for the high-performance sports car of tomorrow. Broad and flat, visibly inspired by the wind tunnel and the race track, its very presence signals that it is destined to push boundaries.
For race track and road
In the Audi AI:RACE, the driver is the one steering and stepping on the gas or brake pedal. There are therefore no complex systems for piloted driving on board and no comfort features to add weight. In their place are a driver’s seat and cockpit that are integrated into an inner monocoque shell that can be slid laterally. When driven solo, the monocoque can be positioned in the center of the interior as in a monoposto – the perfect location for the racetrack. This is made possible not least by the by-wire design of the steering and pedals; a mechanical connection of the control elements is not needed.
Gael Buzyn is Head of the Audi Design Loft in Malibu – where the Audi AI:RACE was born. He describes the most important item in the specifications: “We want to offer the driver an experience that is otherwise available only in a racing car like the Audi R18. That’s why we developed the interior around the ideal driver’s position in the center. Nevertheless, our aim was to also give the AI:RACE a high degree of everyday usability, not just for the driver, but also for a potential passenger.”
Inspiration drawn from motorsport
The Audi AI:RACE package follows the traditional architecture of a mid-engine sports car with a cab that is positioned far forward. The car’s center of gravity is located behind the seats and in front of the rear axle – which benefits the driving dynamics. This does not involve the engine-transmission unit, as in a car with a conventional drive system, but rather the battery pack.
A mix of aluminum, carbon and multi-material composites ensures the body of the Audi AI:RACE has a low basic weight. Not least thanks to the innovative and comparatively light solid-state battery, a total weight of less than 1,550 kg (3,417.2 lb) can be expected.
The AI:RACE is 4.53 meters long, 2 meters wide and just 1.15 meters tall (14.5 x 6.4 x 4.6 ft). These dimensions alone speak of a classical sports car. The wheelbase is 2.70 meters (8.9 ft) and the overhangs are compact. Viewed from the side, the eye is drawn to the gently sloping roof line which is pulled far to the back and features massive C-pillars. Together with the large and almost vertical rear window, this design is reminiscent of a shooting brake concept – the synthesis of a coupé with the rear of a station wagon. The result is not only a distinctive silhouette but also, with 470 liters (16.6 cubic ft), a clear bonus in terms of cargo space – usually a deficit in sports cars. An exclusive luggage set customized to fit the cargo space helps to make optimum use of the luggage compartment – even if the luggage in this car frequently consists of nothing but a helmet and racing overall.
A flat red band of lights extends across the entire width of the rear and underscores the horizontal orientation of the vehicle body. The cabin, placed on the broad shoulders of the wheel arches, appears almost dainty from the rear. The rear diffuser air outlet has been raised high – another functional feature borrowed from motorsport. The diffuser can be moved downward mechanically to increase downforce. The rear spoiler, which normally is fixed, can be extended rearward for the same purpose.
The widely extended wheel arches located opposite the central cabin are noticeable from every angle. They emphasize the extremely wide track of the AI:RACE and thereby illustrate the lateral dynamic potential of the car and the obligatory quattro drive.
Wide and flat light units with integrated digital matrix technology and laser high-beam headlights complete the face of the AI:RACE.
The Audi designers have taken a new tack for air flow through the front hood. The hood dips deeply and acts as a lateral bridge running across the nose, connecting the two emphatically accentuated fenders and also doubling as an air deflector.
At the same time, this layout offers the driver a unique quality of visibility, and not just on the race track. Looking through the large windshield from the low seating position, the driver sees precisely into the opening of the ventilated hood and onto the road, and can thus perfectly target the course and apex of the curve. Mounted within the field of vision is a transparent OLED surface. The ideal line of the next curve can be shown on it, for example, precisely controlled with data from navigation and vehicle electronics. In normal road traffic, on the other hand, the direction arrows and other symbols from the navigation system find a perfect place here in the driver’s field of vision, analogous to a head-up display.
The large-format cockpit itself is designed as a freely programmable unit and can be switched between various layouts for the racetrack or the road, depending on the scenario for use.
Three electric motors and quattro drive
The concept uses three powerful electric motors – one up front and two in the rear. The latter are centrally located between the steering knuckles, each directly driving one wheel via half-shafts. They deliver power output of up to 150 kW to the front axle and 350 kW to the rear – the Audi AI:RACE is a true quattro, of course. Maximum output is 500 kW, with boosting, the driver can temporarily mobilize up to 570 kW. The combined torque of up to 830 newton meters (612.2 lb-ft) allows acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h (62.1 mph) in scarcely more than 2 seconds – a speed that differs only marginally from that of a current LMP1 prototype.
In normal road traffic, the driver can limit the maximum speed in favor of range. This limitation is easy to deactivate on the racetrack and can be adapted to local conditions.
The focus is on not just powerful performance but also maximum efficiency. While being driven, the Audi AI:RACE recovers large amounts of energy: up to moderate braking, the electric motors are solely responsible for decelerating the vehicle. The hydraulic brakes only come into play for heavy braking.
The liquid-cooled solid-state battery has an energy capacity of 95 kWh. A full charge provides for a range of over 500 kilometers (310.7 miles) in the WLTP cycle. The Audi AI:RACE is already designed for charging with a voltage of 800 volts. This means the battery can be fully recharged in about 15 minutes.
The Audi AI:RACE can also be charged cordlessly via induction with Audi Wireless Charging (AWC). This is done by placing a charging pad with integral coil on the floor where the car is to be parked, and connecting it to the power supply. The alternating magnetic field induces an alternating voltage in the secondary coil fitted in the floor of the car, across the air gap.
The front and rear have independent suspension on lower and upper transverse control arms, and, as commonly found in motor racing, a push-rod system on the front axle and pull-rod system on the rear – in both cases with adaptive magnetic ride shock absorbers. The suspension of the Audi R18 e-tron quattro Le Mans racing car served as the model for the basic architecture.
The wheels measure 22 inches in diameter and are fitted with 275/35 tires in the front and 315/30 in the back. Large carbon brake discs with a 19-inch diameter, in conjunction with the electric brake, safely and steadily decelerate the Audi AI:RACE even in tough racetrack conditions.
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