Audi Sky Sphere concept’s variable wheelbase transforms it from GT to roadster
Audi has created a unique and stylish low-power roadster concept with a variable-geometry wheelbase that transforms between autonomous Grand Tourer mode and a sports car.
The Audi Sky Sphere – the first of three electric vehicle concepts that will chart the course for the brand as it moves beyond the internal combustion engine – will be on display at this week’s show. Concours d’Elegance at Pebble Beach, California. The two as yet undisclosed concepts are called Grand Sphere and Urban Sphere, and they are intended to define how users will interact with vehicles with Level 4 autonomous capabilities, as well as how those vehicles interact with their surroundings.
The Sky Sphere has an interesting and defining tip – a tip that will most likely remain as a concept, given regulatory requirements: the “engine bay” and front wheels retract nearly 10 inches rearward while a steering wheel and pedals appear in the cockpit when the user switches from autonomous mode to taking control of the vehicle. The transition, which takes several seconds, gives the concept “a split personality”, explains Henrik Wenders, senior vice president of Audi AG.
The concept is equipped with an 80 kilowatt-hour battery and is driven by a single electric motor on the rear axle capable of generating 465 horsepower and up to 553 pound-feet of torque.
The Sky Sphere, which stands just over 4 feet tall, showcases its exaggerated front hood with raised front wheel arches to carry the huge 23-inch wheels, which themselves feature slots designed to cool its braking. regenerative. The grille is covered in glass and houses a set of sensors that would one day allow level 4 range, a look carried over under its aerodynamic rear axle. To increase ease of access to the passenger compartment, its two doors are hinged at the rear.
“We try to deliver an experience that goes far beyond what a roadster offers today,” said Gael Buzyn, director of Audi’s digital design studio in Malibu, Calif., Where the Sky Sphere was first produced in digital form. “The Audi Sky Sphere is a big step forward into the future.”
With its soft top removed, the two-seater has a huge cabin dominated by capacitive controls and a door-to-door display screen that switches from traditional automotive screens when used by a human passenger to entertainment screens when in use. ‘it is in autonomous GT mode.
While the Sky Sphere is unlikely to be produced in its current form, some aspects of it are slated for production in Audi vehicles later in the decade, Buzyn said.
“The design foreshadows the upcoming design language for the brand. It is a blend of muscular fluidity, architectural lines that run through the car. It is extremely sleek and streamlined,” explained Buzyn.
Wenders said that while the Sky Sphere is conceptual, designers around the world need to think about the transition from drivers to autonomous auto users to broaden their thinking about how future vehicles should be shaped and should perform.
“It is important that we start to open our minds and come up with concepts and interpretations, based on the technology that is offered to us,” said Wenders. “We are witnessing the most fascinating decade in the automotive industry as we transform the automobile into an experiential device.”