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Frankfurt show: Audi’s Urban Concept in full flesh

Radical Urban Concept twins unveiled at Audi event in Frankfurt ahead of show

12 Sep 2011

FULL details and yet more images of Audi’s electric two-seat Urban Concept runabout emerged this weekend following its world premiere in Sportback and Spyder formats at a special event in Frankfurt on Sunday, ahead of the motor show’s official opening tomorrow (Tuesday).

Compared with the small-wheeled, upright vehicle that became an internet phenomenon after it was spotted in camouflage during filming for a teaser video at Berlin’s busy Potsdamer Platz in early August, the show car more closely resembles the drip-feed of sketches and 3D computer renderings Audi issued in the countdown to Frankfurt.

The Urban Concept’s twin electric motors drive the rear wheels and produce a combined peak power output of 15kW and 47Nm of torque.

Audi claims it will accelerate from rest to its top speed of 100km/h in 16.9 seconds, with a round-town sprint of 0-60km/h achieved in 6.0 seconds.

Capable of supplying a 73-kilometre range, the Urban Concept’s 90kg 7.1kWh lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery mounted behind the rear seats can be charged in 20 minutes using a 400-volt three-phase fast charger or an hour using a conventional household outlet.

Charging can also be done wirelessly using inductive technology when the concept is parked over a special charging plate that Audi claims has comparable efficiency to conventional charging methods and can be used outdoors as it is not affected by rain, snow or ice.

7 center imageThe Sportback, which has no opening windows or air-conditioning, is entered by sliding back the roof canopy and stepping over the high sills – in a motion Audi likens to stepping into a bathtub – with entry and exit aided by handles mounted on the windscreen frame and a recess between the thigh supports of the driver’s seat.

A modest luggage compartment opens like a drawer at the Urban Concept’s rear, an idea perhaps borrowed from the Mini Rocketman concept from the Geneva show in March.

A feature Audi describes as “roadster on demand” enables the canopy to be left open for wind-in-the-hair motoring. However, the Spyder variant – accessed via Lamborghini-style scissor doors and sporting a reduced-height windscreen – is the true roadster of the pair.

The Urban Concept’s impressive 480kg weight is achieved by an underlying aluminium structure with monocoque passenger cell (which incorporates the seat bases) and outer skin constructed using carbon-fibre-reinforced plastic.

Race car-like pushrod suspension with aluminium and carbon-fibre wishbones front and rear connect the skinny free-standing 21-inch wheels to the chassis, requiring no power assistance for the steering, which provides a nine-metre turning circle.

Despite the Urban Concept’s dwarf-like proportions and light weight, Audi claims to have included front and rear crumple zones, twin airbags and an “innovative assistance system” to help avoid collisions with pedestrians.

Because its seat bases are a fixed part of the passenger cell, the Urban Concept has sill-mounted controls for the pedals and steering wheel.

The pedals have a 22-centimetre adjustment range while the steering wheel can be moved for easier entry/exit as well as for driving position.

Apart from air vents and their associated controls, the simple carbon-fibre and aluminium wing-shaped dashboard is almost devoid of switchgear, the majority of functions accessed through a multi-purpose display linked to steering wheel-mounted switches and roller controls.

Audi said the seating position is “very sporty” and the experience akin to that of an aeroplane cockpit.

The staggered seats – the passenger sits 30cm further back than the driver to liberate shoulder and elbow room – have cloth-faced foam cushions edged with kangaroo leather and the floor does without carpets, instead featuring integrated mats made from a durable, water-repellent textile originally designed for athletic shoes.

At 3219mm long, 1678mm wide and 1189mm high, the Urban Concept is 321mm shorter but 38mm wider than Volkswagen’s Up city car and has a larger footprint than Renault’s open-sided electric two-seat offering, the Twizy – which has about half the peak power output of the Audi but 10Nm more torque.

The Urban Concept is the strongest signal yet that Audi is intent on entering the sustainable mobility market – likely using its e-Tron sub-brand – in a similar manner to its German rivals BMW and Daimler, which have respectively announced the launch of i-brand models and third-generation Smart ForTwo EV in recent weeks.

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