It sounds like “Frankenstein on wheels”, but if Audi’s activesphere concept makes it to production, it would probably be the first electric vehicle with a body style that’s part-fastback, part-SUV and yes, part-pickup truck.
At first glance, the activesphere looks similar to Audi’s A5 Sportback or A7 Sportback, with a swoopy roofline. But the lower half of the body is like an SUV’s, complete with large 22-inch wheels.
The sloping tailgate actually has an interesting trick: When needed, the lower vertical segment folds horizontally to reveal the rear cargo area, which Audi calls the “active back”, that has brackets for two e-bikes.
At the same time, a motorised bulkhead rises to separate the rear compartment from this load area, so that the cabin space remains insulated from outside elements.
Rugged yet elegant
Apart from the fastback-like upper body, the activesphere also features plenty of glass to lend it an upmarket character. The brand’s trademark Singleframe grille, roof, and lower door areas are all made from glass.
Audi claims this lets in more light, and at the same time, “seems to dissolve the boundary between the natural world and the interior when the activesphere is in off-road mode.”
Off-roading is one of the activesphere’s touted abilities. At 4980mm long, 2070mm wide and 1600mm tall, the vehicle is larger than the Q8 e-tron. It is fitted with 22-inch wheels that are wrapped with 285/55 series tyres.
With air suspension, the ground clearance can be varied by up to 40mm. The approach and departure angles are 18.9 degrees and 28.1 degrees respectively. All-wheel-drive is standard.
Futuristic operating system
The activesphere concept is the first of its kind to offer mixed reality headsets for the driver to operate the car. Audi calls this combination between physical reality and the augmented reality of the digital world the “Audi Dimension”.
These mixed reality headsets supposedly enable the driver and passengers to interact with the car’s various systems. Augmented reality brings control surfaces and displays that are otherwise invisible into the wearer’s field of vision.
Users can view virtual content, which is initially limited to information only. By focussing on information to signal their interest, the system will then bring up more details.
If the user wishes to interact with the content or the various systems, he or she can do so using gestures. Audi says the user interface reacts to changes real time, and can be accessed regardless of the user’s sitting position.
Mixed reality can also potentially improve ergonomics and the user experience. This includes the projection of high-resolution topography graphics and traffic safety information onto the actual landscape.
The technology also allows the various functions of the car to be virtually placed in front of the elements they control. This means audio controls are located in front of the speakers, while climate controls can be located above the air-con vents.
The headsets are versatile and can be used outside of the car as well. Wearers can use them to help navigate the trails while skiing or riding their mountain bikes.
New platform and performance
The activesphere concept is underpinned by Premium Platform Electric (PPE), which is exclusively designed for battery electric drive systems. Developed in conjunction with Porsche, the PPE is the first platform designed to accommodate models with a low silhouette (sedans, coupes and fastbacks), along with SUVs and CUVs.
The activesphere concept’s powertrain features an electric motor on each axle, providing the vehicle with all-wheel drive. Their combined output is 436bhp (325kW) and 720Nm of torque.
Powering the motors is a 100kWh lithium-ion battery. Thanks to 800-volt architecture, the activesphere can accept fast charging at up to 270kW, which adds 300km of driving range in just 10 minutes. With the same charging speed, the battery can also be charged from five percent to 80 percent in 25 minutes.
This story was first published in Sgcarmart.