Weight-saving project paves the way for electric cars

Audi will completely rethink the way it engineers its cars over the next few years, according to Michael Dick, the car maker’s director of technical development.

Dick says Audi’s priorities are “hybrid and electric powertrains and lightweight construction for the next-generation version of Audi’s MLP”, its modular longitudinal platform.

Significant weight reduction is very important for the future, he says, because it will be the “basis for the electrification of the car”.

However, this dramatic weight-saving programme will also be of huge benefit to its conventionally powered cars.

It will help to give them much-improved handling and better performance even with significantly less power.

The MLP is apparently being used as the basis for the company’s “in-depth” investigation into making future cars much lighter.

The first prototype to be generated by the programme is a special S5 coupé, which is 400kg lighter than the current production version, according to Dick.

Dick says reducing the weight of the bare bodyshell is “the most important thing” and that “losing 150kg will deliver better dynamics”.

Although Audi’s lightweight experimental S5 has a 230bhp four-pot engine (100bhp less than the production V8 engine), it can still lap the Nürburgring eight seconds quicker than its V8 sibling, says Dick.

The S5’s prototype bodyshell is described as a “spaceframe body in white”, which allows Audi engineers to build a “hybrid steel-aluminium body”.

The engineers can mix varying amounts of aluminium into the structure, allowing a balance to be established between weight saving and extra cost.

Fuel saving has become a much more important part of Audi’s development process, says Dick, with engineering developments now assessed internally by “euros [cost] per gram of CO2 reduction”.

Hilton Holloway

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