Audi A6 e-tron concept: E-volution with classic lines
At Auto Shanghai, which opened its doors on April 19, the Audi A6 e-tron concept greets visitors in Chinese. Three small, high-resolution LED projectors on each side of the chassis project Chinese characters and turn the floor around the electric show car into a stage. Sascha Heyde is one of the designers of the show car that is building excitement for the future car series.
Mr. Heyde, what deeper meaning do the projections have for welcoming occupants?
For Audi, the combination of safety features and aesthetic design is particularly important. That’s why the small, high-resolution projectors also display warning symbols on the street – to warn bicyclists that the car door is about to open, for example. Four more LED projectors that we've inconspicuously integrated into the corners of the vehicle make blinker projections on the road.
That primarily helps other drivers. What about ideas for the people in the car itself?
They benefit too. The extremely narrowly designed digital matrix LED headlights operate like projectors. If, for example, the Audi A6 e-tron concept is parked in front of a wall during a break to recharge the battery, drivers and passengers can pass the time playing a video game projected onto it. We developed the game for the show car ourselves at Audi. I’ve played it – it's really fun!
The electric Audi A6 e-tron concept uses the Premium Platform Electric, or PPE for short. As an auto designer, does the PPE architecture give you more freedom or does the new technology constrain you further?
The first major challenge was accommodating that big battery in order to be able to design an elegant, sporty car on that basis. At that stage of development, I actually had more leeway than I otherwise would have. Thanks to the platform’s variability, I can play with the wheelbase and shorten or lengthen the fantail accordingly. That means we can implement a wide array of different vehicle concepts, meaning cars with high ground clearance like SUVs and CUVs, but also synthesize vehicles with flat architecture like the Audi A6 e-tron concept without needing to interfere with the basic architecture. With the Audi A6 e-tron concept, we were able to design a long wheelbase. We created a great deal of space between the axes, which we were able to use to position the battery. So with the battery, we’re working with length and width, not height. That, in turn, makes a flat silhouette possible. And that’s exactly what we wanted.
That means that Audi customers don’t have to give up the classic shape of a limousine or a Sportback?
It means that, specifically where cars with electric engines are concerned, is it particularly important to us to be able to also retain the classic proportions, among other things. We want to build highly emotional and highly efficient automobiles with beautiful lines, but that don’t necessarily need to look different. Right in the C-pillar we still want to use the classical, elegant Audi proportions. So the Audi A6 e-tron concept represents more of a soft transition where Audi’s traditional lines and proportions also have their place.
What role do aerodynamics play in the Audi A6 e-tron concept?
With its sporty proportions and elegant lines, including the fastback design typical of the brand, one look and you can see that this vehicle was conceived in a wind tunnel. Its cW value of just 0.22 is hard to beat in the electrified C-segment. In layman’s terms, this means the car exhibits minimal aerodynamic drag – which initially translates into lower energy consumption and therefore extended range. At the same time, the fine-tuning in the wind tunnel has once again resulted in an organic design with exceptional elegance and harmony down to the last detail. Looking at the front, it is immediately apparent that the Audi A6 e-tron concept is a fully electric-powered representative of the brand. A characteristic feature is the large enclosed – we designers say “inverted” – Singleframe grille. The influence of the wind tunnel on the rear end is also unmistakable. The upper rear end is shaped to create an aerodynamically functional breakaway edge. And in the lower section, the rear diffuser’s generously sized air outlet is integrated into the spoiler area.
To what extent are the lines of the Audi A6 e-tron concept a consistent advancement in Audi’s current design vocabulary?
As far as the design vocabulary for Audi models is concerned, the e-tron concept generally represents the next evolutionary step. The concept shows how form and function are combined into the most perfect possible synthesis at Audi. The Audi A6 e-tron concept appears monolithic, as if from a single mold – particularly when viewed from the side. We’re giving up hard edges and consequently arranging soft transitions in the body of the car. The eye-catching quattro wheel arches effectively – even more clearly than on cars with combustion engines – accentuate the width of the body and are simultaneously integrated organically into the side surfaces. The layout of the LED headlights is extremely progressive. They are the flattest headlights we have ever implemented at Audi. Digital Matrix LED and digital OLED technology make it possible to achieve maximum brightness and a wide range of features even with a minimal surface area, while at the same time offering customizable light signatures.
What in the A6 e-tron concept is typical of the brand?
Of course the Singleframe grille is one identifier we could name. In addition, there are the very flat headlamps and the new generation of OLED elements that act like a display in a continuous strip of lights on the rear, thanks to the three-dimensional architecture. The classic Sportback silhouette has been preserved and let's not forget the distinctive quattro wheel wells. In short: this is evolution with classic lines.
What percentage of the concept car will subsequently enter into series production?
With this show car, we're already very close to the series.
I'd say 95 percent. The basic proportions, the wheel-tire dimensions with the 22-inch wheels, the measurements and the silhouette are the same as you will find in series cars that will enter into the automotive world in 2023.
Sascha Heyde has been working with Audi’s design team since 2011. Among other things, he has designed the Audi Q8. He is 44 years old, studied industrial design at the Braunschweig University of Art, and turned his dream into a career.