Audi rekindles the spirit of the A2 with A1:ME concept

Audi gets adventurous with an electric autonomous city car concept that echoes the last really interesting Audi – the A2 launched twenty years ago. But even that didn’t have plants inside.

At 4.30 meters long (14.1 ft) and 1.90 meters wide its a compact car. But Audi claims the architecture of the electric drive allows for short overhangs and a large-volume interior without a propeller shaft tunnel. The drive unit is positioned on the rear axle and mobilizes 125 kW (170 metric hp).

A1:ME concept plus an Audi A2 from the 2000s for comparison, a car ahead of its time.

The Audi AI:ME is designed as a 2 plus-x-seater. Its layout relies on a variety of configurations for seat positions and stowage space. While only the individual seats at the front will be used during most journeys, the car offers space for up to four people in the front and on the rear bench if necessary.

Audi says that the cars will become “third living spaces” alongside our homes and workplaces, and interior design is becoming more important.

Audi’s design team prioritized the interior and made it core to the whole vehicle. It says the focus is less on the traditional connection between driver and vehicle—steering wheel, instruments, pedals—and more on the time spent in an automated vehicle.

This is why these control elements can be retracted and almost fully concealed by a stowage compartment with a surface made of open-pore walnut wood

Magnets serve as cup holders and hold metal cups or plates in place as required. No more eating sandwiches out of your lap.

Audi has made use of materials more familiar to home interiors including real wood and Corian – usually seen in kitchens and bathrooms.

Electro-chromatic control can insulate the entry of light and heat if necessary, and shield the interior with the continuously tintable windows. Filigree wooden struts in the roof area create a pergola above the interior.

Taking the domestic theme one stage further is the use of real plants inside the car – certainly a first if you discount the flower vase found on the original Volkswagen Beetle.

Sensibly, Audi has thought about how an electric autonomous city car would actually be used. It believes that a car like the AI:ME will drive predominantly in the speed range between 20 and 70 km/h (12.4 and 43.5 mph) and will often have to remain mobile for hours at a time without charging.

However, long ranges in terms of kilometers are less relevant than the ability to make good use of the operating time, says Audi.

Audi engineers therefore drew on a comparatively simple, yet light, basic configuration. A battery unit with a storage capacity of 65 kilowatt hours is sufficient for meeting these requirements.

A permanently excited synchronous motor that can mobilize 125 kW (170 metric hp) if necessary operates in the area of the rear axle of the AI:ME. A fraction of this is usually sufficient for keeping up with the flow of city traffic.

Thanks to brake energy recuperation and its comparatively low weight, the Audi AI:ME exhibits extremely low energy consumption even in city traffic.

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