Update: ‘Electric Audi van Release Date’ section updated and ‘Production’ section added.
Audi design experts based out of Ingolstadt and Beijing have a treat for customers in China—the Audi urbansphere concept. The luxurious Audi van concept was developed keeping Chinese customers’ needs in mind—space, comfort, and digitization. The electric minivan is the third concept in the sphere trifecta after the Audi skysphere (unveiled at the Monterey Car Week 2021) and Audi grandsphere (premiered at the IAA 2021).
Here’s everything we know about the Audi urbansphere concept:
Audi van concept Design
The Audi urbansphere design was born in Audi’s design studios in Beijing and Ingolstadt. Its proportions are deceptive, and it appears regular van-sized in the press images. But the urbansphere concept is longer than the Audi A8 L. The luxury electric minivan concept measures 217.9 inches long (5.51 meters), nearly 10 inches longer than the A8 L. With a generous surface area to play with, Audi designers have taken many liberties.
Upfront, there’s a fresh interpretation of Audi’s signature singleframe grille, which now gets an octagonal shape. There’s a barrage of LEDs integrated within the grille. A 3D digital light structure is arranged in ‘dynamically condensed pixel areas.’ The matrix LED headlamps are positioned above the grille and appear incredibly sleek. The glass area is impressive; the windshield seamlessly flows into the rear, reminiscent of fighter jets.
The zero-emissions Audi van concept runs on massive 24-inch aero-optimized wheels and doesn’t get conventional mirrors. Instead, it has slender panels protruding from the A-pillar with cameras. The doors are counter-hinged (front and rear), and there’s no B-pillar. There’s excellent harmony between the front and back as the rear also gets digital surfaces with 3D pixel lights. The roofline gently drops into the highly raked rear windscreen while the massive 4-part diffuser makes the Audi van appear sporty—not a word associated with vans, but Audi has done the trick.
Our rendering, shown above, predicts the production-spec look of the Audi urbansphere. While the overall shape and size are nearly identical, the road-ready electric Audi van is imagined with a simplified exterior. The octagonal Singleframe is a comparatively normal mask similar to the Audi Q4 e-tron. The side extensions are not present either, and we’ve used vertical headlamps and air inlets instead. The rendered model features changes like production ORVMs, doors, roof, roof rails, and flush door handles.
Interior & Features
The interior appears to have acres of room with a wheelbase of 133.8 inches (3.4 meters). The swiveling rear seats can be tilted up to 60 degrees to a point where rear passengers can face each other. They also get leg rests. There’s a massive vertically-pivoting roof-mounted transparent movie screen for the rear passengers—similar to what we saw on the new 7th generation BMW 7 Series and i7 recently, but unique in form factor.
That’s not the only screen in the cabin. The front seat backrests get ‘privacy screens,’ similar to what we see on passenger airlines. Another party trick of the Audi urbansphere concept is the retractable steering and pedals. The concept is capable of Level 4 autonomous driving, so the steering can be tucked away behind the dashboard while the pedals hide behind the footwell. What’s more, Audi has included VR glasses in the armrests.
Instead of an infotainment screen and digital cluster, there are visual projections on the wooden surfaces under the windshield. Users can control menus with a rotating ring on the door trims (MMI touchless response). What’s more, there’s generous use of sustainable materials in the cabin. No chemicals were used for the interiors, the seats are made from Econyl (recycled polyamide), and the armrests of the Audi van are made using bamboo viscose fabric.
Audi urbansphere specifications
The Audi urbansphere concept measures 217.9 inches long (5.51 meters), 79.1 inches wide (2.01 meters), and 70 inches (1.78 meters) tall. It has a 133.8-inch long wheelbase. The concept is built on Audi’s Premium Platform Electric, co-developed with Porsche and the VW Group. The platform will also be used by the upcoming Electric Porsche Macan and the Audi Q6 e-tron.
In terms of powertrain, the Audi urbansphere concept comes with a dual-motor AWD set-up with 295 kW (401 hp) and 508 lb-ft. The PPE allows 800-volt charging, so the Audi van’s 120+ kWh battery can be charged from 5-80% in under 25 minutes. Audi says the estimated WLTP range will be 466 miles. The vehicle also gets rear-axle steering for improved maneuverability and adaptive air suspension.
Level 4 Autonomous Driving
The electric Audi van is capable of Level 4 Autonomous Driving. The vehicle can self-drive with minimal human intervention, unlike Level 3, where the driver should be ready to take over should the need arise. Audi is presently working with CARIAD, VW Group’s software arm, to introduce the technology in the second half of this decade.
Electric Audi Van release date
Audi has not mentioned official production plans for the electric van, and the Urbansphere is purely a design study at this stage. Suppose Audi’s internal market analysts come back with a positive business case, and it gets the backing of the top bosses at Ingolstadt, it may arrive in China mid-decade. Rivals would include the Zeekr 002, the Voyah Dreamer, and gas-powered minivans like the Lexus LM. Not all the gizmos mentioned in the story would make it to production. However, Audi will try to flex its muscles with high-tech features to maintain its brand image.
Should Audi launch an electric van inspired by the Urbansphere concept, the Audi-FAW NEV Company, a joint venture between the German automaker and China’s FAW (First Automobile Works), could manufacture the vehicle. The joint venture company will open a new factory dedicated to electric vehicles with an annual production capacity of more than 150,000 units in China. Construction has started, and it is to be completed by the end of 2024.
Audi has confirmed that three models from the Audi A6 e-tron and Audi Q6 e-tron series have received the green signal for manufacturing in Changchun. The Audi electric van could join them as early as 2026, the year starting which the company plans to release only electric vehicles.