As the auto industry moves into an era beyond the internal combustion engine (ICE), designers are increasingly thinking about how the shape of the car can and should evolve once freed from the physical constraints of the group. traditional powerplant. Most of the battery-powered vehicles we’ve seen to date are clearly evolutions of the familiar shapes we see on the road. Some upstarts like Canoo set out to rethink completely although the resulting aesthetic is questionable. Audi is also heading down this path with a series of three upcoming design concepts, the first two arriving at Pebble Beach in August and at the IAA Munich show in September.
Audi’s production electric models so far, including the e-Tron, Q4 e-Tron, and e-Tron GT, all have shapes that could just as easily contain an ICE. The new concept series will attempt to show the planned next phase of Audi design as envisioned by the 450 people working at the brand’s three studios in Ingolstadt, Germany, Malibu, California and Beijing, China. Each of the three is intended to fulfill a distinct role, but each is built around a common central theme, the sphere.
The sphere seen by Audi is a living space, the world around occupants where they can choose to work, relax or have fun. It is also described as the living sphere of the car, the connection between the interior and the exterior.
The first of the concepts will be showcased in early August during Monterey Automotive Week and will be known as Sky Sphere, which will presumably feature some sort of open or glass roof, exposing this living space to the outside world. Throwing something like this in sunny California is perfect. The third concept that will appear is the Urban Sphere, a vehicle intended for mobility in the 21st century megalopolis like Beijing. Apart from the names, no further details have been provided on these concepts.
In between, the Great Sphere will arrive in Munich in September. Audi has released a few teaser sketches that provide clues to the direction of the design. From the profile it looks like a grand touring brake of sorts with a very short front end and almost no overhang beyond the wheels. The absence of an engine allows the bulkhead and dashboard to be well advanced and away from the driver and front passenger.
With the potential for some degree of automated driving, at least on highways in the years to come, the front seats have a much better displacement and recline capacity than standard. Unlike the AI: Con 2017 Concept which was envisioned as a fully automated Level 5 vehicle without any human driving control, the Grand Sphere is intended for Level 4 where it can be selectively automated under certain conditions.
The AI: Con went even further than the Grand Sphere by pushing the glass towards the corners, as visibility for driving was not an issue. On the new concept, there is a bit more practicality by keeping the A-pillars closer to the driver to minimize blind spots in manual driving mode.
At least conceptually, the overall interior theme is minimalist but not entirely austere. For example, in the console of this luxury GT car is a refreshment center with a pair of cups. This is enabled by the flat floor with the battery underneath and no need for a central driveshaft. When transitioning to piloted moden, the controls and switches are designed to be adjustable when the seat is reclined so they can still be reached. Something like the Grand Sphere is expected to go into production around the middle of the decade.
The Grand Sphere will make its public debut at the IAA Mobility event in Munich from September 7-12, replacing the old Frankfurt Motor Show.