- Audi developing a holistic approach for electric driving
- New project house unites creativity and expertise
- The e-performance support project to be launched in October
Audi is working hard on the future of mobility. The company has established a project house for the development of an integrated concept for electric drives in automobiles. As part of this effort, a support project entitled e-performance and funded in part by the German Ministry for Education and Research will be launched on October 1. Institutes and companies from industry and science will be participating in the project.
Audi invests roughly two billion euros in development projects each year. Although the primary focus is on the further advancement of the combustion engine and related technologies, a second priority is electromobility. The e-tron showcar is making a powerful statement in this field at the IAA, and Audi is also in the process of strategically bundling its electromobility activities. Audi has established a project house dedicated to electric driving; it will shortly begin work on a project sponsored by the German federal government. The working group and the project bear the same name: e-performance.
‘We are trying to find a concept that requires no compromises,’ says Michael Dick, Member of the Board of Management of AUDI AG, Technical Development. ‘Electromobility means more to us than just electrifying conventional cars. Instead, we are dedicated to a holistic approach to all aspects of the topic.’
The e-performance project house was established on the premises of Audi Electronics Venture GmbH (AEV). This Audi subsidiary cooperates closely with colleges and universities, research institutes and young startup companies to implement new technologies in the field of electronics. The AEV is located close to the plant grounds, and the project house is staffed by young experts.
‘We have a mixture of engineering expertise, creativity and a dose of lateral thinking,’ says Dr. Michael Korte, Head of the e-performance project house. ‘The project house brings free thinkers together with technical development experts – with designers, engine and chassis engineers, and software specialists.’
Electric drive technology in automobiles still poses many questions at the moment. Audi is striving to provide holistic answers to these questions, thus creating an architecture comprising all sub-areas of the vehicle. Only when new systems and components are made to work together perfectly can the full potential of electromobility be exploited.
Audi is certain that the vehicle concepts will include new, intelligent solutions. ‘Our holistic concept is complex,’ says Dr. Christian Allmann, Head of the e-performance support project, ‘but it is the only way to optimize the primary target parameters of range, performance, reliability, practicality, service life, and cost.’
One focal point: the battery
By its very nature as the heart of the electric car, the battery is the focal point of the studies, which cover such topics as thermal management, capacity, package, weight, safety, service life and integration into the vehicle’s heat and energy flows. ‘We are not working on cell chemistry – we are relying on our strategic partners for that,’ says Dr. Korte, ‘but the battery management software will be our know-how.’
In an electric car, the entire on-board electrical system needs to be completely restructured. Many components that today use the energy and waste heat of the combustion engine — from the power steering to the heater — need a new source of power. The electric motor, the power electronics with their high-voltage components, inverters and transformers as well as the durability of the chips under the demanding conditions in the car are other important fields of work.
In addition — and this is what distinguishes the integrated approach — Audi is also studying all other areas of the vehicle. Topics include the flow of forces in the drivetrain, the climate control system, the controls and displays in the cockpit, the vehicle acoustics and the chassis. In this last field, electrically actuated brakes and suspension struts offer great potential.
The materials used in the car — which should be as lightweight as possible — and the entire package are another focal point. Electric motors are very compact and can also be placed at the wheels or the axles, but the batteries need their own space.
The young team keeps one important aspect in mind every step of the way: even an electric car has to be a true Audi with the strong character that all Audi models have in common. ‘We will draw on the bundled expertise of the entire company for the design and the lightweight body,’ says Dr. Korte, ‘and we are also committed to meeting the high Audi standard in terms of driving dynamics.’
The bar is high — the three-year e-performance project scheduled to start on October 1 represents a major challenge. It is broken down into nine work packets, from energy storage to driving dynamics. In the initial phases, the participants will work in their various areas primarily using state-of-the-art simulation tools. The project will progress through the construction of sub-modules and test platforms to produce a drivable car.
Capable partners from science and industry
The German Ministry for Education and Research is providing eight-figure funding for the project. Audi has also recruited renowned partners from the scientific community – the RWTH Aachen, the technical universities of Munich, Dresden and Ilmenau, Leibniz University of Hanover and the Fraunhofer Society. Dr. Allmann reports that besides AEV, Robert Bosch GmbH and Bosch Engineering GmbH have also come on board.
The project should benefit all of the partners. Competitiveness in high-tech is a primary objective of the German government, thus the Audi partnership is good for Germany as a site for higher education and industry. The e-performance support project will enable the participants to gain an important know-how advantage.
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– Audi AG