Audi’s Second Sphere Concept a ‘Jet for the Road’

Audi will unveil what it promises could be a “private jet for the road” complete with Level 4 retractable steering wheel autopilot autonomous capabilities.

It will be presenting the Audi grandsphere concept study at next week’s IAA Munich International Motor Show. The aircraft styled behemoth measures 17.6ft long to offer First Class-like saloon luxury of private travel.

Audi claims its Level 4 automated driving technology will allow the interior to turn into a spacious sphere of experience without a steering wheel, pedals, or displays. The front seats become a lounge with maximum space, freer views and access to all the functions of a holistic digital ecosystem employing virtual reality.

The Audi grandspere is the second of three “sphere” concept cars from the brand. The similarly electrically driven roadster Audi skysphere concept debuted in August as a vision of an automatically driving GT that transforms into a self-driving sports car with a telescopic wheelbase. These two concept cars, as well as the Audi urbansphere, which will appear as the third part of the trio in 2022, are linked by their overall concept, which is derived from their ability to drive automatically at level 4. Audi is working with CARIAD, the Volkswagen Group’s software think tank, toward introducing that technology in the second half of the decade.

Powering the Audi grandsphere is a battery system  on the group’s Premium Platform Electric (PPE) whose key element of is a battery module between the axles that holds around 120 kWh of energy. A flat battery layout is possible because Audi uses the entire vehicle base between the axes. Core benefits include a long interior and extra legroom in both rows of seats. Additionally, the absence of a gearbox cover and a cardan tunnel increases spatial comfort in electric cars.

All wheel drive comes with separate electric motors mounted on the front and rear axles that use electronic coordination. The Audi grandsphere concept’s two electric motors are claiming to deliver a total output of 705bhp and a torque of 708ft-lbs. The heart of the drive system is the 800 volt charging technology. Like the Audi e-tron GT before it, this technology ensures that the battery can be charged with up to 270 kW in a very short time at fast-charging stations.

This strategy claims to make possible charging times that approach a refueling stop for a car with a conventional engine. Just ten minutes are said to be enough to charge the battery to a level sufficient to power the car more than 186 miles. In less than 25 minutes, Audi claims it can charge the 120 kWh battery from 5% to 80%. A range of up to 466 is another bold claim together with a 0-62mph sprint time of 4 seconds.

Director of Audi UK Andrew Doyle, said: “The grandsphere concept is a clear signal of intent from Audi as to where we are heading with our electrification strategy. A glimpse of how we plan to rethink and reshape the future of the luxury segment, the grandsphere blends cutting edge technology with our next-generation design language to create a truly exciting vision of what’s to come.”

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in Europe. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_

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