Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Audi has issued a series of official design sketches depicting a new electric-powered concept car it plans to unveil at next month's 2011 Frankfurt Auto Show.

The compact two-seater, known as the urban concept, has been conceived primarily for city use as part of what insiders describe as a "future mobility project" underway at Audi's Ingolstadt headquarters.

Although not planned for production, the new Audi is said to point toward a proposed range of city-based models from the German carmaker in a move that will take it into direct competition with Mercedes-Benz's Smart and BMW's i brands — both of which will plan to showcase new production-based concepts in Frankfurt.

Central among the new models is a successor to the long-discontinued A2, which Ingolstadt sources suggest will be sold with a range of different drivelines, including plug-in electric and range-extender systems.

Inspiration for the urban concept, which insiders suggest will be put on show in a number of different body styles, has clearly been taken from quirky German cars, such as the Messerschmitt Kabinenroller.

Commonly referred to as a bubble car, the three-wheeled Messerschmitt Kabinenroller along with other highly compact two-seaters such as the Goggomobil T250 and Isetta 250 were considered instrumental in providing Germany and other European countries with a cheap means of transport following the ravages of World War II.

Based around a carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic monocoque, the Audi concept mixes traditional design elements such as a large single-frame grille, angular headlights, prominent shoulder line with a number of aeronautical-themed cues, including a wrap-around windscreen.

The wheels, 21 inches in diameter, are mounted outboard, where they are covered by aerodynamically optimized cycle guards.

There are no doors per se. Instead, entry is made via a canopy arrangement that forms the entire roof section and also includes part of the side bodywork. It slides back to reveal a narrow cabin in which the lowly positioned driver and passenger seats are staggered to free up shoulder room.

Audi confirms the urban concept receives a plug-in electric driveline running two electric motors — one acting on the front wheels and the other on the rear wheels. However, it plans to hold back on exact details until closer to its public unveiling on September 13.

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