First Look: Audi A2 Concept

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Along with the miniscule Urban Concepts, Audi is unwrapping the electric-powered A2 concept -- which previews a forthcoming subcompact model -- at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show.

Like the original A2, which debuted in 2000, the new concept is diminutive in size. In fact, the concept is within half an inch of the original in all dimensions, and at 149.6 inches long, it’s almost a half-foot shorter than the new A1. Like the original, the A2 concept utilizes an aluminum space frame -- something that lent the first A2 a trim curb weight and a big price tag. The new concept wears a combination of aluminum panels and carbon fiber-reinforced polymer (CFRP) to help keep weight down.

Powering the A2 concept is a transversely-mounted electric motor good for 116 hp and 199 lb-ft of torque sent through a single-speed transmission to the front wheels. Juice comes from a lithium-ion battery pack that stores a total of 31 kWh of energy, though only 24 kWh is available to move the vehicle. Audi claims a top speed of 93 mph and a 0 to 62 mph time of 9.3 seconds, thanks to the A2’s lightweight design and powerful electric motor. From McPherson struts and a rear torsion beam axle underpin the A2.

According to Audi, the setup should give the A2 a range of approximately 124 miles; with a full recharge taking a scant 1.5 hours on a 400-volt, three-phase charger or four hours on a standard 230-volt European outlet. Audi has also incorporated a contactless charging method for the A2 concept, so no plug is needed.

The interior has been designed to take advantage of the A2 concept’s sandwich-style flat floor. There is room for four, and each passenger scores his or her own bucket seat. A center console is cantilevered from those seats, and reportedly allows some flexibility when it comes to cargo -- Audi mentions it’s possible to stick an adult bicycle (with front wheel removed, of course) between the second-row seats.

Touch-sensitive surfaces control the car’s infotainment technology, and the steering wheel even has a touch-sensitive input area. A seven-inch LCD display mounted on the steering column serves as the gauge cluster. Designers attempted to push the eco-friendly envelope with the interior design, employing unusual recyclable materials throughout. The cargo cover is made from ribbed, recycled polyester, while the door panels are wrapped in a neoprene-feel polyurethane.

Audi has been known as an innovator in exterior lighting design, so it’s not too surprising to see the A2 concept toy with new ideas in this sector. High- and low-beam headlamps are LED-powered, while running lamps use thin LED fibers, which reportedly help frame the projector assembly itself. Taillights are also LED powered, and vary in brightness based upon visibility conditions. Interestingly, the fog taillight is illuminated with laser diodes -- reportedly brighter and more efficient than LED -- and project a red triangle onto the road surface behind the car.

Interestingly, the A2 also uses LED illumination to dress up its exterior. The character line can be illuminated in different manners, potentially allowing it to provide entry and exit lighting and to function as a turn signal repeater. During hard braking, it progressively glows red, providing yet another warning sign to other drivers of a potential emergency stop.

Exactly how much of this will translate into a production car remains to be seen. Audi has said a production version of the A2 should launch in 2013 as an electric vehicle. Gas and diesel-powered versions should subsequently follow, launching no later than 2015.

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