The next big thing: an all-electric production car from Audi. Two show cars showcase what the future of e-mobility will look like at the brand with the four rings – the Audi e-tron quattro concept and the Audi e-tron Sportback concept. Two important milestones in the e-tron evolution.

Charged with future spirit.

An all-electric Audi production car – soon it will no longer just be a vision, but a reality on the roads. You can already sense the feverish anticipation among everyone involved in this project. They can’t wait to add a new dimension to the company’s principle of Vorsprung durch Technik. Underlying the project is a continuous process involving different development stages. Before a production car like this goes into production, all necessary parameters – safety, comfort, aesthetics – are first optimised on the basis of studies. This work draws on tried-and-tested knowledge, but new challenges also need to be mastered. In e-mobility projects, range is an especially important factor. Achieving the maximum isn’t just a matter of technology but also of design. The various factors have been perfectly harmonised to create a complete package that will allow the first all-electric Audi production model to reach a range of 500 km in future.

Two milestones of the e-tron evolution.

Two show cars give an impressive taster of the future of e-mobility at Audi – the Audi e-tron quattro concept and the Audi e-tron Sportback concept. They embody the continuous development process – from vision, to initial miniature model, to show car. And showcase new ideas without straying too far from Audi production models.

One vision, many creative approaches: Audi picks the show car design teams by means of an internal bidding process. The design team headed by Gary Telaak successfully pitched their vision for the Audi e-tron quattro concept, while Philipp Römers’s team were awarded the task of designing the Audi e-tron Sportback concept. The path leading to a finished show car is also a continuous process. It usually starts out with a sketch on a piece of paper, which is then transferred onto computers and developed into a 3D model, before the fine-grained detailed work begins. The real trick is translating the sketch into a coherent model. Although a show car offers designers a bit more freedom than a production model, there are still lots of technical requirements that must be observed. 

”As is clear from the name show car, these models are intended for show; they showcase the brand’s design aesthetics. However, at Audi we take show car development very seriously from the technical side too. If we later go on to develop a production model from the show car, most of the necessary design groundwork will already have been laid down.”

Audi e-tron quattro concept.

This milestone in the e-tron evolution was unveiled at the IAA in Frankfurt in 2015. The show car provides a concrete foretaste of the future of luxury all-electric SUVs. It also showcases the athletic, contemporary aesthetics Audi is giving its alternative cars. The streamlined design, with a drag coefficient of 0.25, was developed in a wind tunnel. “Aerodynamics is an important factor when it comes to range. You need to meet certain values in order to unlock the maximum potential. To achieve this target, we tested a 1:4 model in a wind tunnel at an early stage of development, while we were still doing initial work on the vehicle architecture. It’s about creating a design that is not just aesthetically appealing, but also efficient. We called it ‘aerosthetics’ for short. The aesthetics of aerodynamics,” explains designer Gary Telaak. In order to further reduce air resistance, the sport adaptive air suspension lowers the car’s body at high speeds. Other details also help make the design more streamlined: for example, the wing mirrors have been stripped away and replaced by small cameras. As an added bonus, this boosts safety by reducing the blind spot.

The powerful quattro drive also plays a critical role. Three electric motors, one for the front axle and two for the rear, provide all the power you could need. The total power output is 320 kW, boostable to 370 kW for short periods. With a torque of over 800 Nm, the Audi e-tron quattro concept sprints from 0 to 100 km/h in just 4.6 seconds – and quickly reaches the electronically limited top speed of 210 km/h.

The quattro drive is needed to bring the power to the road. But it also defines the exterior design. The wheels are all given equal emphasis to show that the car is driven by all four of them. In the e-tron models, this is done in an aerodynamic fashion,” explains Philipp.

In practice, this means that the characteristic quattro body panels are clearly visible from the side, but a view from above reveals only a slight outward curve. This means the air flows more smoothly along the sides and around the car. A factor that was also taken into account for the next show car.

“It’s more important than ever for our designs to take usability into account. Ideas that simply look good are no use. Aerodynamics has a particular impact on exterior design.” 

Audi e-tron Sportback concept.

Another member of the e-tron family was unveiled this year at the spring trade fair Auto Shanghai: the Audi e-tron Sportback concept. The four-door gran turismo represents another critical step towards e-mobility and offers a glimpse of what the production car might look like. The aesthetics combine classic Audi elements with a host of cutting-edge details: an electrifying architecture that has been systematically tailored to the electric drive technology and package. The dynamic digital light design sets new benchmarks.

The Audi e-tron Sportback concept boasts extremely sporty lines, expansive panels and a tapering rear. “The Sportback’s coupé-style roof structure, which tapers down sharply at the rear, not only makes a statement but is also highly efficient. It made it possible to achieve an even lower drag coefficient than in the Audi e-tron quattro concept,” explains designer Philipp Römers. Additional highlights include the illuminated rings (the brand logo) and the virtual wing mirrors. The Singleframe grille, a signature Audi feature, has also been given a makeover, since the electric motor needs far less ventilation than a front combustion engine. This meant that the classic black radiator grille could be redesigned. “e-tron opens up exciting design possibilities. Proportions can be changed, surfaces can be reimagined. You can do new things. It’s fun!” Philipp adds.

Like the Audi e-tron quattro concept, it pairs sporty driving – acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h in 4.5 seconds at a power output of up to 320 kW (boostable up to 370 kW) – with exceptional comfort and a range of up to 500 km. Perfect for everyday driving – and much more besides. The quattro torque control efficiently converts the electric motor’s enormous torque and transmits it to the road for an exhilarating driving experience. This recuperation function makes the Audi e-tron Sportback concept even more efficient.

The evolution continues...

The two show cars showcase the future of e-mobility and form the basis for subsequent production models. In the coming year, one of them will be rolling off the production line at Audi’s Brussels plant, which will be responsible for future e-tron production. With the e-tron newsletter, you’ll always be kept up to date. Not yet signed up? Then subscribe now and become part of the e-tron evolution.


The Audi experts:

Designers Philipp Römers (Audi e-tron Sportback concept, plus production version) and Gary Telaak (Audi e-tron quattro concept)