The Audi AI:TRAIL is a new breed of off-road machine and could very well herald the next influx of 4x4s.
Audi is completing its quartet of visionary vehicles by showcasing an electric off-roader at the 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show.
The Audi AI:TRAIL Quattro is one of four use case vehicles projecting Vorsprung durch Technik into the future: the Audi Aicon, AI:ME, AI:RACE and AI:TRAIL will be on show together on the Audi stand throughout the show.
The four-seater Audi AI:TRAIL quattro combines the capacity for automated driving with off-road capabilities.
The glass surrounding the cabin extends all the way to ground level, providing all-round visibility.
The ample battery capacity ensures sufficient range even away from dense networks of charging stations.
Audi’s visionary vehicles
The Audi AI:TRAIL quattro is the fourth entrant in the series of concept cars with electric drive systems, which began with the presentation of the Audi Aicon at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show. Following this luxury-class vehicle, the Audi PB18 e-tron made its debut in Pebble Beach in 2018. It has been given a new name in time 2019, gaining the shared “AI” prefix to indicate that it, too, is part of the family.
It is now known as the AI:RACE, which leaves no illusions as to the purpose of the electric sports car.
The third in the series, the Audi AI:ME - introduced at the 2019 Auto Shanghai show - is an autonomous city car aimed at megacities all over the world. It offers connectivity and a comprehensive range of infotainment services, helping users to spend their time in the vehicle as usefully and as comfortably as possible.
Finally, with the AI:TRAIL, Audi is now opening up the potential applications for its visionary vehicles to include off-road terrain. The car is equipped with four electric motors, systems for assisted and automated driving and - typically for Audi - quattro permanent all-wheel drive.
With an exterior length of 4.15m and a width of 2.15m, the Audi AI:TRAIL’s potential in off-road conditions is immediately apparent. The roof height of 1.67m and the enormous 22-inch wheels with 850mm tyres hint at the vehicle’s off-road capabilities; even when it is standing still. With a ground clearance of an impressive 34cm, it can ford through water more than half a metre deep.
Audi says that on rough, rocky terrain, this architecture provides plenty of agility without the battery unit integrated in the floor coming into contact with the ground.
Lightweight and maximum body stiffness are, of course, important technical objectives for off-roaders in particular. That is why the body of the Audi AI:TRAIL is made of a mixture of high-tech steel, aluminium and carbon fibre. As a result, it weighs just 1750kg.
The drive system
The performance specifications for the Audi AI:TRAIL are markedly different from those for conventional automobiles. That is, says Audi, because the car’s development was not about achieving remarkably quick acceleration or hitting extreme speeds on the autobahn.
Given that the AI:TRAIL is intended for use in areas without charging infrastructure, the thing that really draws the attention is its range. The stated target with its lithium-ion battery is 400 to 500km on roads or easy off-road terrain. On rough ground, where the almost constantly elevated wheel slip alone means that energy consumption is higher, the limit is 250km.
In order to meet these requirements, the vehicle is designed to reach a maximum speed of 130km/h on the road. The vehicle electronics continuously monitor the energy flow and consumption, thereby ensuring maximum economy even during off-road driving.
In terms of drive hardware, the Audi AI:TRAIL is equipped with four electric motors installed near the wheels, each of which propels one wheel directly. The maximum system output is 320kW and the maximum torque is 1000Nm. Usually only a fraction of this power is mobilised; the drive of just one axle is often sufficient.