- Audi urbansphere concept – revolutionary space concept
- High-tech interior becomes a sphere of experience for the urban space
- PPE technology platform with electric drive
Consistently designed from the inside out – Audi presents the Audi urbansphere concept study. Designers and technicians initially designed the Audi urbansphere for traffic in the megacities of China. But the concept is also suitable for all other metropolitan areas around the world. In these urban regions, where personal space is particularly tight, the concept car offers the largest interior space in an Audi to date. And orchestrates this intelligently with technologies and digital services that appeal to all the senses and thus offer a new quality of experience.
“In order to meet the mobility needs of our Chinese customers, the Audi design studios in Beijing and Ingolstadt worked closely together to develop the Audi urbansphere concept,” says Markus Duesmann, Chairman of the Board of Management of AUDI AG and responsible for the Chinese market. For the first time, potential customers in China also took part in the development process and contributed their own wishes and experiences to the creation (“co-creation”).
The result of this process is particularly evident in the interior of the Audi urbansphere concept. The large-volume automobile presents itself as a rolling lounge and mobile study – the vehicle serves as a third living space during the time spent on the road. The Audi urbansphere combines the luxury of complete privacy with a comprehensive high-tech range on board, even during the daily rush hour. The technology for automated driving transforms the interior without a steering wheel, pedals and displays into a mobile experience space that opens up to the offers of a holistic digital ecosystem.
Audi sphere – first class to the power of three
With the three concept cars Audi skysphere, Audi grandsphere and Audi urbansphere, the brand with the four rings is illustrating its vision of tomorrow’s premium mobility. This opens up a world of experience that goes far beyond the purposeful stay on board, beyond the mundane transport from A to B.
Sphere number 1: In August 2021, the electrically powered Audi skysphere concept roadster made its debut – the spectacular vision of an automated GT that, with a variable wheelbase, is transformed into a self-driving sports car.
Just a few weeks later, Audi presented the second model in the sphere series at the IAA 2021, the Audi grandsphere concept. This four-seater large sedan illustrated the brand’s claim to define the progressive luxury of the future.
Both studies are linked to the Audi urbansphere by deriving the entire concept from the ability to drive at Level 4 in an automated manner. A technology that Audi, together with CARIAD, the software company of the Volkswagen Group, is working towards introducing in the second half of the decade.
Even at first glance, the Audi urbansphere concept is the largest model in the sphere family, indeed of all previous Audi concept vehicles. With its representative dimensions – 5.51 meters long, 2.01 meters wide and 1.78 meters high – placed in the automotive upper house, the Audi urbansphere concept breaks radically with the conventions of the segment.
Because it has been consistently designed from the inside out, around its passengers. The most important dimension is therefore: the unrivaled wheelbase of 3.40 meters. The interior of the Audi urbansphere is not subordinate to the classic dictate of cramming as many seats, storage compartments and functional elements as possible into a volume limited by driving physics, but primarily follows the need of the passengers to experience generous space as a distinctive comfort factor be able.
“In order to make e-mobility even more attractive, we think of it holistically and in terms of customer needs,” says Markus Duesmann. More than before, the product alone is not decisive. Audi is therefore creating a comprehensive ecosystem with car-related services. The Audi urbansphere concept also offers everyone on board a wide variety of options to use this freedom for individually designed experiences: communication or relaxation, work or retreat into privacy, if this is what they want. In this way, the Audi urbansphere concept is transformed from a pure automobile into an “experience device”.
Audi’s own options and the integration of digital services from other providers expand the possibilities. These can be used to access a wide range of services related to the current journey. Everyday tasks beyond the journey are also taken care of – reserving a visit to a restaurant, online purchases from the car. In addition, the automated driving Audi urbansphere concept picks up its passengers at home and independently takes care of a parking space and charging the battery.
Infotainment offers such as the seamless integration of onboard streaming from music and video providers already in use are also individually tailored. In a further step, Audi will have personalized and exclusive offers in the future – concerts, cultural events or sporting events to which customers are invited.
The architecture – from the inside out
The name component “Sphere” already sends a signal: The center of the concept vehicles Audi skysphere, grandsphere and urbansphere is the inner space, the interior. The interior thus becomes the foundation for design and technology and thus the sphere of life and experience of the occupants on the road.
Their needs and desires develop this space, its architecture and all integrated functions. With this revaluation, the design process itself is also changing. At the beginning of all discussions, the focus is on the interior. Only then are the package, exterior lines and proportions designed, which, together with the technological premises, shape the automobile into a total work of art.
Surface, form, function – the interior
The doors of the Audi urbansphere concept are opposed, hinged at the front and rear; there is no B-pillar. The entire width of the interior opens up to the passengers as soon as they board. Seats that can be rotated outwards and a red carpet of light projected onto the floor next to the vehicle already orchestrate the entrance to the comfort experience.
A wheelbase of 3.40 meters and a vehicle width of 2.01 meters define the more than impressive footprint, even for a luxury car. Together with the clear vehicle height of 1.78 meters and generous glass surfaces, these dimensions result in an exceptionally spacious experience.
Four individual seats in two rows offer passengers luxurious first-class comfort. Especially the chairs in the back row offer generous dimensions and a variety of adjustment options. In the relax and entertain modes, the backrest can be tilted by up to 60 degrees, while the leg rests extend at the same time. The centrally positioned armrests integrated into the seat bolsters and their counterparts in the doors create a cozy feeling of security.
The seats also take the changing social needs of the passengers into account in many ways. During a conversation, the passengers can face each other on their swiveling chairs. On the other hand, if you want to withdraw, you can cover your head area with a panel attached behind the headrest from the person sitting next to you. Each seat also has its own sound zone with speakers in the headrest area. Individual monitors are also integrated into the backrests of the front seats.
For shared use of infotainment, on the other hand, there is a large-format, transparent OLED screen that pivots vertically from the roof area into the zone between the rows of seats.
On this screen (“cinema screen”), which takes up the entire interior width, the two passengers in the back row can take part in a video conference together or watch a film. Even split-screen use is possible. If the sunshade is not in use, thanks to its transparent design, it offers a clear view to the front or – when folded up – also through the glazed roof area to the sky.
As in the Audi grandsphere concept, space and architecture, digital technology and authentic materials also merge into one unit in the interior of the urbansphere. The lines are emphasized horizontally. The open, wide interior supports the impression of a unique space. If the steering wheel, pedals and classic dashboard are dispensed with in automated driving mode, the feeling of transparency and space is increased.
The seat surface and backrest of the integral belt seats are visually separated from each other. Between the rear seats there is a center console that can be swiveled upwards and is usually locked in a low position. It contains a water dispenser and glasses – this too is proof of the first-class claim of the Audi urbansphere concept.
New digital options also qualify the Audi urbansphere as a wellness zone, which were not least created by the impulses of the co-creation process with Chinese customers. The best example: stress detection – this adaptive program uses face scans and voice analysis to determine how passengers are feeling. And offers each person individual opportunities to relax, for example with a meditation app that can be used via the personal screen and the private sound zone in the headrests.
Less is more – displays and operation
Reduction becomes a design principle in the Audi urbansphere. Neither batteries of round instruments nor black screens for virtual display concepts can be seen before the driving functions are activated.
Instead, clearly structured and calm zones made of materials of the highest quality. Wood and wool as well as synthetic textile fabrics can be seen as panels, seat covers and floor carpets, with a high-quality feel and a pleasant touch.
Soft beige and gray tones structure the interior horizontally. A dark, reduced green as the color of the seat shells is soothing to the eye. The color zones of the interior become lighter from top to bottom and, together with the natural incidence of light, create a homogeneous, spacious interior.
A surprise when the vehicle comes to life with a simple tap of the finger: there are displays, albeit in the form of projections on the wooden surfaces below the windscreen, depending on the driving status – manually with the steering wheel or in Level 4 – distributed over the entire interior width or segmented separately for drivers and passengers. All the information that is required during the journey can be found in extremely fine resolution.
In addition, a sensor bar is integrated below the projection surface for quick switching of content – for example from music to navigation. This shows all the functions and applications that are active in the car. Icons for the respective menus light up.
A special, extremely innovative control element can be found near the door cutout on the interior paneling: the MMI touchless response. If the passengers are sitting in an upright position, far in front of their respective area, they can haptically select various function menus with this element using the rotary ring and buttons and click through the individual levels. A simple, intuitive way of operating.
If, on the other hand, the backrest is tilted far back, the passengers do not have to do without this comfort item. Because then a combination of eye tracking and gesture control is used. A sensor aimed at the eye recognizes from the direction in which the user is looking when the operating unit is to be used. And without having to lean forward, the passengers only need to carry out analogue hand movements that are similar to those in haptic operation, and can thus operate the system just as well – even completely without touching it.
The following applies to all operating modes – gaze detection, gesture or voice control and touch: The Audi urbansphere concept adapts to the respective user and learns their preferences as well as frequently used functions – and on this basis can not only sensibly supplement rudimentary commands, but also the Users can also make individual suggestions themselves.
Control panels are also integrated into the armrests of the doors. The vehicle always offers the passengers the invisible touch surfaces by means of visual indication of their position. Also to be found in the door armrests are VR glasses on the left and right, which can be used in conjunction with infotainment options – for example for the holoride system.
principle of sustainability
Many of the materials in the interior of the Audi urbansphere concept, such as the hornbeam veneers, come from sustainable cultivation. With this wood, wood that has grown locally can be used and the entire trunk can be used. During processing, the producers manage without the use of chemicals.
The seat pads are made of a recycled polyamide – product name: Econyl. This material can also be reprocessed after use in the automobile – without any loss of quality. The measure of using the respective materials by type is also important for the possibility of recycling – because a mixture would drastically reduce the possibilities of recycling.
Bamboo viscose is used in the armrests and in the rear of the vehicle. Bamboo grows faster than ordinary wood, binds a lot of CO2 and neither herbicides nor pesticides are needed during cultivation.
Space concept for the luxury class – the exterior design
A big and undoubtedly a self-confident appearance – the first encounter with the Audi urbansphere concept leaves an impression on the viewer. A length of 5.5 meters, a height of almost 1.78 meters and a width of more than two meters are undoubtedly representative enough for the game in the automotive premier league.
Classic Audi shapes and elements can be found in the flowing silhouette of the vehicle body, but combined here to form a new synthesis: the representative Singleframe with the digital eyes of the flanking light units. A side view of the sweeping, dynamic roof arch. A massive sill that hides the battery unit. Large 24-inch wheels. They cite an icon of the 1990s – the Audi Avus concept car. The six double spokes signal lightweight construction and stability at the same time, reminiscent of functional motorsport wheels and the Bauhaus tradition of the brand design.
A suggested wedge shape of the vehicle body is underlined by the large and flat front windscreen. There are large digital light surfaces at the front and rear, which characterize the design and at the same time serve as communication elements.
The Audi urbansphere escapes classification into classic vehicle categories. As a typical Audi, however, it is recognizable at first glance. The relationship to the Audi grandsphere concept is particularly striking. Both of these concept cars have the monolithic design of the vehicle body in common, as does the sculptural, soft shape of the wheel arches. A long wheelbase of well over three meters and short overhangs indicate the E drive principle. Elegance, dynamism, organic design – such attributes immediately come to mind despite the stately proportions of the Audi urbansphere and the much flatter grandsphere.
Visible technology – the light
In the front area there is an innovative interpretation of the Audi brand face Singleframe: It is shaped as a large octagon. Even if the grille has lost its original function as an air intake for the electric drive, it still remains in view as the unmistakable signet of the brand. The digital light surface is behind a slightly tinted, transparent visor that covers a large area of the front. The three-dimensional light structure itself is arranged in dynamically compressed pixel areas. The upper and lower edge of the single frame is still made of aluminium, the vertical connections are designed as part of the light surface of LEDs.
The entire surface of the Singleframe becomes a stage or screen (“Audi Light Canvas”) and can be used for communication – as a dynamic light show with a clear signal function in the direction of other road users to improve road safety. Driving and main beam are realized via light segments in the outer parts of the single frame, in the rear area there is an analogue matrix LED surface.
The lighting units on the right and left of the single frame appear narrow, like focused eyes. These digital lighting units – called Audi Eyes – quote the brand logo of the four rings, because they enlarge and isolate the intersection of two rings to form a pupil – a new, unmistakable digital light signature.
The illuminated surfaces – and thus the expression of the eyes – can be adapted to the traffic situation, the environment and even the mood of the passengers. As a daytime running light, the view can be focused or displayed openly, and the iris can be narrow or wide. An eyebrow that is also indicated digitally also functions as a dynamically staged blinker if required. Due to its optimal recognizability, it sets unmistakable signs in favor of safety.
A special tribute to China is a bright 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, it acts as a protective companion and multifunctional light source: the inner skin of the umbrella is made of reflective material so that the entire surface acts as a glare-free lighting unit.
With this, not only do the wearers see their way better, but they are also more visible themselves: When crossing a street or in dangerous situations, the Light Umbrella activates a rhythmic flashing of the light cone using artificial intelligence and sophisticated sensors.
And the Light Umbrella also puts its wearer in the best possible light in the literal sense: With even illumination of the face, it helps to take perfect selfies if necessary.
propulsion and loading
The technology platform of the Audi urbansphere – the so-called Premium Platform Electric (PPE) – is designed exclusively for battery-electric drive and thus fully exploits all the advantages of this technology. The central element of the PPE is a battery module between the axles, which – as in the Audi grandsphere – has around 120 kilowatt hours of energy available. Since Audi uses almost the entire vehicle base between the axles, a flat layout is possible for the battery.
Together with large wheels in 24-inch format, this results in a basic proportion that is not only perfect for the shape. A high degree of interior length and thus legroom in both rows of seats is one of the key advantages. In addition, the elimination of the gearbox bell and cardan tunnel increases the room comfort in e-cars.
The two electric motors of the Audi urbansphere concept mobilize a total output of 295 kilowatts and a system torque of 690 Newton meters. Impressive values that are by no means always called up in urban convoy traffic. Nevertheless, the Audi urbansphere does not do without the quattro permanent all-wheel drive – essential for high-performance representatives of the brand.
The concept car has an electric motor on the front and rear axles, which use electronic coordination to implement the permanently available all-wheel drive as required and, above all, with a view to economy and range. A novelty: the front-axle drive can be deactivated as required to reduce friction and thus lower energy consumption when coasting.
Fast charging, long range
The heart of the drive is the 800 volt charging technology. It ensures that the battery can be charged with up to 270 kilowatts at fast charging stations within a very short time. The charging times are similar to those of a classic refueling stop in combustion-powered automobiles: just ten minutes are enough to take the drive energy on board for a distance of more than 300 kilometers. The charge level of the battery, which has a capacity of more than 120 kilowatt hours, can be increased from five to 80 percent in less than 25 minutes. According to the WLTP standard, a calculated range of up to 750 kilometers can be expected – and that means even in more consumption-intensive city and short-distance operation: surprisingly necessary charging stops can usually be avoided.
Air suspension for maximum comfort
The front wheels are connected via a 5-link axle specially optimized for electric vehicles. At the rear there is a multi-link axle, like the one at the front made of light aluminium. The steerable rear wheels ensure excellent maneuverability despite the long wheelbase of 3.40 meters.
The Audi urbansphere concept uses the Audi adaptive air suspension – analogous to its closest relative grandsphere – a 1-chamber air suspension with semi-active damper control. Not only on the city highway, but even on uneven, often patched asphalt inner-city streets, it offers excellent comfort without noticeable body movements.