SUSTAINABLE MOBILITY

SUSTAINABLE MOBILITY

Audi completed its quartet of visionary vehicles and displayed an electric off-roader – the Audi AI:TRAIL quattro, a comprehensive concept for sustainable mobility off the beaten track. All four visionary use case vehicles – the Audi Aicon, AI:ME, AI:RACE and AI:TRAIL were on show together at Audi’s stand in Hall 3 throughout the recently concluded IAA 2019.

SUSTAINABLE MOBILITYThe four-seater Audi AI:TRAIL quattro combines the capacity for automated driving with superb off-road capabilities. The glass surrounding the cabin extends all the way to ground level, providing unrivaled all-round visibility. The ample battery capacity ensures sufficient range even away from dense networks of charging stations.

The “Trail” part of the name evokes the idea of exploring nature. That is why there are no big screens on board for streaming TV series or videoconferencing; instead, broad glass surfaces provide a clear view of the surroundings.

The Audi AI:TRAIL quattro is the fourth entrant in the series of concept cars with electric drive systems, which began with the presentation of the Audi Aicon at the 2017 iteration of the IAA. Following this luxury-class vehicle very much intended for highly automated long-distance driving, an emissions-free monoposto designed for the race track, the Audi PB18 e-tron, made its debut in Pebble Beach in 2018. It has been given a new name in time for IAA 2019, gaining the shared “AI” prefix to indicate that it, too, is part of the family. It is now known as the AI:RACE, which leaves no illusions as to the purpose of the electric sports car.

The third in the series, the Audi AI:ME – introduced at the 2019 Auto Shanghai show – is an autonomous city car aimed at megacities all over the world. It allows its passengers to stop worrying about the stop-and-go traffic that is inevitable in urban areas, offering them perfect connectivity and a comprehensive range of infotainment services, helping them to spend their time in the vehicle as usefully and as relaxed as possible.

Finally, with the AI:TRAIL, Audi is now opening up the potential applications for its visionary vehicles to include off-road terrain. The car is equipped with four electric motors, systems for assisted and automated driving and—typically for Audi – quattro permanent all-wheel drive.

SUSTAINABLE MOBILITY

The Aicon, AI:ME, AI:RACE and AI:TRAIL are united by more than just the concept of sustainable drive systems and a body line that will run far into the future. They also embody an entirely new mobility concept for the brand with the four rings. Unlike the cars of the present, such vehicles will no longer have to compromise between a wide range of uses and scenarios. Instead, it will be possible to design tomorrow’s cars for much more specific use cases. In the future, customers will be able to order any of these specialist Audi models from an Audi on demand vehicle pool to suit their personal preferences and requirements and to lease them for a limited period.

In the process, they will not have to miss out on the high level of customization that is taken for granted in the premium segment nowadays. That is because it will be possible for all the user’s available data and preferences to be taken into account in the process of configuring and equipping the vehicle for lease. Customers who book a vehicle will then not only get their desired vehicle but also can have it configured to suit their personal preferences as far as possible. The color, interiors, and technical options can be pre-configured online with the app or via the driver details stored in the myAudi system. Even drivers’ preferred interior temperature, the perfect ergonomic seat adjustment, and their personal music library will already be activated when they get into the car. This offer is accessible and easy to use via a simple app that connects the vehicle order, personal preferences of the user, and numerous options that can be used while on the road.

SUSTAINABLE MOBILITY

With an exterior length of 4.15 meters (13.5 ft) and a width of 2.15 meters (7.05 ft), the brawny Audi AI:TRAIL’s potential away from paved roads is immediately apparent. The roof height of 1.67 meters (5.5 ft) and the enormous 22-inch wheels with 850 mm (33.5 in) tires hint at the vehicle’s excellent off-road capabilities even when it is standing still. With a ground clearance of an impressive 34 centimeters (13.4 in), it can ford through water more than half a meter (1.6 ft) deep. On rough, rocky terrain, this architecture provides plenty of agility without the battery unit integrated in the floor coming into contact with the ground.

The cabin itself is an extensively glazed space surrounded by polygonal shapes, with room for up to four people. One characteristic feature – and one that indicates the vehicle’s kinship with Aicon and AI:ME—is the protruding ridge halfway up the side windows. This line continues to both the front and rear and acts as a waistline uniting the entire body in one monolithic whole. With the electric drive system arranged around the axles and the battery in the floor, there is no need for overhanging sections or separate attachments for the motor or batteries. Something else that the four visionary Audi vehicles at IAA 2019 will be demonstrating is that the one-box design is becoming the gold standard for the age of the electric vehicle.

SUSTAINABLE MOBILITY

Light weight and maximum body stiffness are, of course, important technical objectives for off-roaders in particular. That is why the body of the Audi AI:TRAIL is made of a mixture of high-tech steel, aluminum and carbon fiber. As a result, it weighs just 1,750 kilograms (3,858.09 lb) despite its high-capacity battery.

With the Audi AI:TRAIL, form follows function. In the interior, the side window ridges give passengers space where they objectively need it the most—around their shoulders and elbows. They also provide extra space where they subjectively perceive it most acutely, as the way in which the side windows extend down low opens up a clear down to the ground, even between the wheels.

SUSTAINABLE MOBILITY

The windshield wraps around the front of the vehicle like the cockpit of a helicopter. Passengers have an unobstructed view of the road or trail both in front and to the sides. Nor is it just the front and sides that are transparent and covered in glass. Almost the entire roof, from the top of the windshield to the rear spoiler, allows a clear view of the sky and the landscape. Even the vertical Single frame is glazed, with only the four rings of the badge sitting in their customary position in what is otherwise a glass octagon.

Both the windshield and the tailgate open wide, providing easy access to large storage compartments with straps to keep luggage secure in transit. Integrated in the bumper at the rear is another separate compartment for dirty items such as hiking boots, climbing gear or wet clothing. The side sills beneath the opposing doors act as retractable running boards. This makes it easier to load and unload the roof rack. Instead of bulky wheel wells, horizontal fenders are all that sit above the four wheels. That makes it possible to see the suspension in action from the cockpit even during travel.

SUSTAINABLE MOBILITY

Bulky transverse links and MacPherson suspension struts with coil springs and adaptive dampers provide suitable robustness and ensure safe driving stability. The special tire design becomes apparent at first glance, as the profile appears to be drawn all the way up into the high tire sidewalls. However, behind it lies a structure of supporting struts, which are integrated in the treads, and the actual surface. This design allows the tires themselves – in addition to the suspension struts – to contribute a further 60 millimeters (2.4 inches) of suspension travel. Aside from improved off-road capability, this provides the occupants with an enormous amount of additional comfort.

The tires also feature variable, sensor-controlled air pressure regulation. Optical sensors and electronic stability control (ESC) work together to detect the condition of the road surface and adjust the air pressure in the tires accordingly. As regards traction, it can be useful to reduce the pressure, such as when driving on sand, and thereby increase the tire contact patch.

SUSTAINABLE MOBILITY

The interior of the Audi AI:TRAIL is tidy and spacious, and it has just a few visible control elements. There are two comfortable-looking, almost delicate seat shells in the front row, both equipped with four-point seat belts. Light colors dominate the upper interior area down to the level of the seat cushion and the low dashboard. The openness to the outside world appears all the more present; the occupant’s eye is drawn to the large glass areas in the front and side sections and guided through the almost fully glazed roof. Pedals, a yoke for a steering wheel, a few buttons, and a smartphone attached to the steering column as a display and control center for vehicle functions and navigation – those are all the elements there are for the interaction between the driver and the vehicle.

Mobility and multi-functionality are features of the Audi AI:TRAIL’s light sources as well. Instead of conventional headlights, self-contained light sources sit below the A-pillars and can shine both outward and inward. These LED elements are dimmable and adjustable and can be used as interior lighting as well as for lighting the vehicle’s path. The rear light operates in a similar way. Extending across the full width of the rear section, this element can be used to illuminate the luggage compartment and as distinctive signature lighting for the exterior. Instead of conventional low beams and high beams, the Audi AI:TRAIL is equipped with a total of five rotorless, triangular, electrically operated drones with integrated matrix LED elements. They are capable of landing on a roof rack or directly on the roof of the vehicle, and docking onto the inductive charging elements.

SUSTAINABLE MOBILITY

The flying objects are Audi Light Pathfinders, which generate their lift in the same way as bladeless fans produce their air flow. Thanks to their markedly lightweight design, they can fly ahead of the AI:TRAIL, consuming comparably little energy in the process, and illuminate the path ahead, thereby replacing headlights entirely. If desired, the on-board cameras generate a video image that can be transmitted to the display in front of the driver via Wi-Fi, turning the Pathfinders into eyes in the sky. When the AI:TRAIL is stationary, the drones can also illuminate the surrounding area from their position on the roof; for example, when the occupants are enjoying a picnic next to the vehicle. They can also illuminate the interior through the transparent panoramic roof if the occupants prefer to remain inside the vehicle. The drones, which are coordinated fully automatically by the AI:TRAIL, usually fly at least in pairs. If necessary, they can also provide additional light intensity or illuminate the area around the vehicle by coming together to form groups of up to five drones. The occupants can simply use control software on their smartphones to set their desired scenario.

Given that the AI:TRAIL is intended for use in areas without charging infrastructure, the thing that really draws the attention is its range. The stated target with its lithium-ion battery is 400 to 500 kilometers (248.5 to 310.7 mi) on roads or easy off-road terrain (in line with the WLTP). On rough ground, where the almost constantly elevated wheel slip alone means that energy consumption is higher, the limit is still an impressive 250 kilometers (155.3 mi). In order to meet these requirements, the vehicle is designed to reach a maximum speed of 130 km/h (80.8 mph) on the road. The vehicle electronics continuously monitor the energy flow and consumption, thereby ensuring maximum economy even during off-road driving.

SUSTAINABLE MOBILITY