Whether us petrol-heads want to accept it or not, fully electric and autonomous cars are coming and the race for making the best one is well and truly underway between the world’s best carmakers. At the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show, the brand with the four rings has shown its vision – the Aicon.
The Aicon is a four-door pure-electric concept design of a luxury sedan with no steering wheel or pedals and a claimed range of 700-800 kilometres. This thing has presence with its wide stance, short overhangs, bulging arches to house those 26-inch wheels and the generous visibility from its large windscreen and drawn back pillars. As is the norm with fantastic concept cars, the doors open Rolls-Royce Phantom style to expose the vast interior.It measures over 5.4 metres in length and a longer wheelbase than the new A8.
It doesn’t even have headlights in the traditional sense. Instead, it uses fully-digital display surfaces comprising of hundreds of triangular pixel segments, and it is the same arrangement at the rear end. That allows for cool and intricate graphics, animations and even information.
Full autonomy, aka Level 5, means there is no need for any human ‘interference’, hence the lack of driving controls or a recognizably conventional interior. Instead, the Aicon features two extremely comfortable chairs in front that can swivel and slide in the front and a supplementary bench seat. The ergonomics for the intuitive touch controls are like a cocoon of technology around the passengers, the electronic vehicle assistant recognizing the passenger by his or her phone. While it may not be exactly fair to point out the expected autonomy-snags in a concept car with no release date, they are still worth noting. The technology on the Aicon show car has been designed for a world of connected cars and transport infrastructure where other autonomous vehicles are a given.
Now for the second half of the future, a more imminent one, the electric drivetrain. The Aicon has four-electric motors, one for each wheel (Quattro) and a bank of solid state batteries under the floor pan. The arrangement such that it offers twice the energy density of lithium-ion powered EVs and the aforementioned claimed range of over 700 kilometres. For the problem of charge times, Audi has used an 800v charging system to facilitate an 80% charge in 30 minutes, be it by plugging it in or wireless inductive charging. The total power outputs are 350bhp and 550Nm of torque, figures that are almost irrelevant with no means of control. Nonetheless, the Aicon is an important, albeit concept, car for Audi’s future and design vision, and an impressive one at that.
However, it wasn’t the only futuristic sci-fi car they had in the stands. While we shall take a closer look at the new A8 later on, there was also the Elaine concept car. The Elaine previews Level 4 autonomy, so it still retains driver controls for when it needs to hand it back to the human behind the wheel. It is, in essence, a rehashed version of what Audi had previewed at the Shanghai auto show this year, the e-tron Sportback coupe SUV concept, with similar looks but much smarter sensors and improved software.
The Elaine is an EV too, with one motor on front axle, and a motor on each of the rear wheels for a combined max output of 496bhp, and an expected range of 500 kilometres in ideal hypermiling circumstances.