Audi Urbansphere Concept Is An Electric Minivan That’s Longer Than A Cadillac Escalade
Audi has launched the third and last vehicle from the “sphere” range of concepts called the Urbansphere. The futuristic EV with a minivan silhouette is designed for use in the megacities of the future, prioritizing the passenger’s in-vehicle experience. The Urbansphere was supposed to debut at the Beijing Auto Show, but since the event has been postponed due to the pandemic, it was revealed online.
Following the Skysphere (roadster) and Grandsphere (large sedan) from last year, the Urbansphere (minivan) is a collaborative project between Audi’s design studios in Beijing, China, and Ingolstadt, Germany. The goal was to create a vehicle for the Chinese megacities, with designers taking input from potential customers in China during development.
Audi’s First Electric Minivan
Starting with the dimensions, the concept is not what you would expect from an urban-focused proposal. In fact, measuring 5.5 meters (216.5 inches) long, 2 meters (79.2 inches) wide, and 1.78 meters (70.1 inches) tall, with a wheelbase of 3.4 meters (40.8 inches), it’s actually longer than a Cadillac Escalade (5.4m / 211.9 in long)!
The monolithic proportions make it look like a minivan with a heavily raked windscreen, an aerodynamic roofline, sculpted bodywork, massive 24-inch wheels, and large digital areas on both ends. The latter are designed to communicate with the environment through pixel-style LEDs creating different shapes and colors.
The highlight is the front end with a new interpretation of the now-digital and fully-covered Singleframe grille which extends towards the sides, similar to the Skysphere concept. In this way, Audi is somehow in line with the latest massive-grille trend that is quite popular in minivans.
Spacious Cabin With Premium Design And Loads Of Tech
Audi describes the concept as “a lounge on wheels and a mobile office, serving as a third living space during the time spent in traffic” while bragging that it has the most interior space of any of its models helped both by its shape and the packaging of the EV platform.
Indeed, the interior which is accessible through large suicide doors looks rather airy and welcoming. While it could easily fit many passengers, the Urbansphere has only four independent seats arranged in two rows so that it can offer the best possible experience. The seats have Relax and Entertain modes with different degrees of tilting and swiveling, leg rest extensions, and speakers on the headrests for private sound zones.
The steering wheel, digital instrument cluster, and pedals hide when the vehicle is in autonomous mode. After all, like the previous sphere concepts, the Urbansphere comes with Level 4 capability which will be introduced in production vehicles within the second half of the decade.
Passengers have access to many different digital services and infotainment features visible through projection on the dashboard, screens mounted on the seatbacks, VR glasses, or a retractable transparent OLED display for the rear passengers. The MMI touchless response on the door including a rotating ring and buttons allows the driver to access many different settings, while it can also be used via eye-tracking, gesture control, and voice control when the seat is fully reclined. Control panels for all passengers are integrated into the armrests, remaining hidden when not in use. The vehicle also supports stress detection technology using facial scans and voice analysis and offering suggestions for relaxation.
For the upholstery, Audi used sustainable Bamboo viscose fabric, a recycled polyamide called ECONYL, and hornbeam veneers without any chemicals during the manufacturing process. Another cool feature is the swiveling center console which contains a water dispenser and glasses. Finally, the concept comes with the Audi Light Umbrella, an illuminating umbrella inspired by Chinese tradition that can both protect the user from the rain and act as a portable light source for dark areas.
PPE-Based Underpinnings With 396 HP
The Urbansphere might be a design study but it is based on the EV-dedicated PPE platform developed by Audi and Porsche for production vehicles including the upcoming Audi Q6 e-tron, A6 e-tron, and Porsche Macan EV. The concept is fitted with dual electric motors producing a combined 396 hp (295 kW / 401 PS) and 690 Nm (509 lb-ft) of torque although only a small portion of those figures will be utilized in city traffic. The quattro four-wheel-drive system can deactivate the front or the rear electric motor when required to improve energy consumption.
The floor-mounted battery has a capacity of 120 kWh, with Audi estimating its WLTP range to be around 750 km (466 miles). The 800 Volt technology allows fast charging capability of up to 270 kW, providing 300 km (186 miles) of range in just 10 minutes, while a 5 to 80 percent charge takes less than 25 minutes. For optimum comfort, there is an adaptive air suspension system, with four-wheel-steering making it more agile.
With the Urbansphere concept, Audi shows us its considering new vehicle segments for the electric era. Minivans are quite popular in the Chinese market with more and more companies entering the premium part of the segment, thus we wouldn’t dismiss the possibility of a production vehicle with similar traits. Having said that, the sphere concepts were conceived as design studies and their main role is to showcase the styling language and technology of future Audi models.