October 25, 2007 We’re running around like kids in a candy store at the Tokyo Motor Show, it’s a technophile’s delight – and Audi has just come out swinging. The German company has just unveiled its sexy metroproject quattro, a plug-in electric/petrol hybrid concept car with some amazing features, including a detachable remote control that acts as an integrated or standalone mobile phone, navigation unit, MP3 and video player and keyless ignition tag, while letting you turn the car’s heater on before you leave the house.
Plug-in electric/petrol hybrid engine
The plug in/petrol hybrid is a best-of-both-worlds solution that combines the cheap petrol-free running potential of an electric engine with a petrol backup for longer distances and higher performance.
The metroproject’s petrol unit is a turbocharged 1.4.litre TFSI engine developing 110 kW (150 bhp), whose power is directed to the front wheels by means of the S-tronic Direct Shift Gearbox. A 30 kW (41 bhp) electric motor positioned on the rear axle is able to deliver up to an additional 200 Nm of torque when the vehicle is accelerating. When both engines are in operation the car is transformed from a front-wheel-drive to a quattro, and power is transferred to the road in the most effective way possible.
The 70kg electric motor is capable of powering the vehicle alone for zero-emission, zero-petrol commuting – meaning that through the week, it’s perfectly possible to get to work and back with a bit of extra zipping around without burning a drop of gasoline. The capacity of the lithium-ion batteries gives the vehicle a range of up to 100 km in pure electric mode – more than enough for the average person’s daily round trip, and the motor can be recharged from any power socket overnight.
In hybrid mode, the automatic start/stop facility, regenerative braking system and phases of purely electrical operation reduce the fuel consumption and emissions of the metroproject quattro by around 15 percent compared to when it is running exclusively on the combustion engine. Despite its sporty performance (0-100 kmh in 7.8 seconds, top speed of 201 kmh), the study uses just 4.9 litres of premium fuel for every 100 km, while CO2 emissions average a mere 112 g/km.
Removable Audi mobile device
The center console houses a new, innovative technology: the removable Audi mobile device. This portable unit functions as a keyless ignition authorization system for the vehicle, a mobile phone, a navigation unit and an audio and video player all in one.
It also serves as the control unit for numerous vehicle systems which can also be set from outside the Audi metroproject quattro. The mobile device offers the entire range of functions and exact same menu navigation as the MMI system and integrates a host of communications devices that were previously only available separately into a single, extremely space-efficient unit.
This allows the driver to use the compact device as an MP3 player, for example, or as an address database and input tool for the navigation system. What's more, it can be used to switch on the vehicle's heating if required and program the sound system to suit your personal preferences, before you leave the house.
The unit is operated using a touchscreen, whose architecture replicates the MMI standard. The touch-sensitive screen is capable of recognizing both Latin and Japanese characters, and is even able to decipher handwriting. The Audi mobile device and vehicle communicate via a WLAN connection.
The Audi mobile device also offers the vehicle owner an extra security function: images from a camera in the vehicle interior can be received on the device's display in real time. If the vehicle alarm is triggered, the system activates itself and warns the owner. Should the vehicle be stolen and move out of the WLAN connection's range, the electronics automatically switch to the car phone's UMTS transmitter to keep the owner informed of the vehicle's current location.
It’s an innovative and exciting system that gives owners an additional incentive not to lose their phone.
The Audi metroproject quattro is equipped with the same Audi drive select system that can be ordered as an option for the current generation of the bestselling Audi A4. This enables the driver to pre-select one of two specially adapted configurations for the drivetrain, shift characteristics and magnetic ride shock absorbers.
The default setting is the "efficiency" mode, which is automatically activated every time the engine is started. In this mode, the engine and transmission respond gently to use of the accelerator and shift paddles. This setting is ideal for a relaxed driving style, as well as offering tremendous potential for effectively lowering fuel consumption, and therefore emissions too.
In the "efficiency" mode, the electric motor is not deployed as a source of additional torque; instead it is run selectively as the sole power source to bring about a tangible reduction in consumption. For this purpose, the system makes use of a host of parameters which can be fed to it via the navigation system.
Thanks to the navigation system's ability to detect differences in altitude along the route, regeneration phases as well as the increase in energy requirements on inclines can be computed before the journey has even started. This also makes for particularly efficient vehicle operation by harnessing the electric motor to optimum effect.
On predefined routes with access to a mains power socket at the destination, the Audi metroproject quattro can cover distances of up to 100 kilometers running purely on electrical power – and swiftly too: it is capable of reaching a speed of considerably more than 100 kmh. The combustion engine only cuts in again once battery capacity has dropped to below 20 percent of maximum.
The "efficiency" mode also flashes up messages in the central display advising the driver to deactivate energy-intensive systems, such as the automatic air conditioning's compressor, or close any open windows.
The “dynamic” mode is designed to produce the dynamic yet comfortable driving sensation that is so typical of the brand and that Audi drivers have come to expect of their car. In this mode, the vehicle's electronics also harness the torque available from the electric motor to achieve extra-sporty acceleration along with excellent lateral dynamics.
The shock absorbers deploy a highly innovative technology in the form of Audi magnetic ride, which we’ve already seen in the Audi R8 and the TT. Here, the conventional shock absorber fluid is replaced by a magneto-rheological fluid whose viscosity can be controlled by means of an electromagnetic field. This effect allows the damping characteristics to be adapted electronically at any time by energizing the electromagnets.
Audi magnetic ride capitalizes on this quality to make the appropriate damping forces available in any driving situation, thereby optimizing both ride comfort and performance dynamics. A computer linked up to a system of sensors interprets the current driving situation with split-second speed. At the same time, drivers are able to choose between two different drive modes, depending on whether they wish to have a distinctly sporty drive – with the magneto-rheological fluid at a low viscosity – or a more comfort-oriented ride.
Although just a concept at the moment, the metroproject quattro showcases some very practical and exciting technologies, and also demonstrates the viability of a plug-in electric/petrol hybrid as a real-world alternative engine technology. Fantastic stuff.