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Marc Lichte’s Audi e-design

Marc Lichte’s Audi e-design

Electric mobility is changing the automobile design of the future. Marc Lichte, head of Audi Design, uses the example of the Audi Q4 e-tron concept to talk about the key features of the exterior design on the Audi e-tron.

Text: Bernd Zerelles Photo: Robert Fischer Reading Time: 3 min

Portrait of Marc LichtePortrait of Marc Lichte

“There has never been a more exciting time to be a car designer. Right now is the best time to rethink and reconceive automobile design – in short, to take car design into the future. The electric mobility transformation is paving the way for this. The focus is shifting to the customer and their wishes. What is the intended use for the car? Long distance, city, leisure? How should the interior look? Should I be able to work, read, or sleep in it? And last of all, we designers then conceive the exterior.”

The magic of proportions

“The proportions form the basis of any good design. The technical platform for electric cars enables us designers to create vehicle proportions that we have long dreamed of. The electric motor on the Audi Q4 e-tron concept is mounted on the axles, the battery in the floor space in between; the vehicle cabin in the center grows in terms of its dimensions and shifts the larger wheels (needed to bear the weight) outward. The A-pillar moves much further forward – after all, there is no longer an engine under the hood. Huge wheelbase, huge wheels, small overhangs: These completely new proportions define the unique character of electric vehicles.”

Side profile of the Audi Q4 e-tron concept car. Side profile of the Audi Q4 e-tron concept car.

The face tells you it’s an Audi

“The Singleframe grille on the front is Audi’s signature; it also elevates the Audi Q4 e-tron concept as a face from the masses. The Audi Singleframe links the radiator above and below to form one unit. But what can be done when there is no longer a radiator on an electric vehicle? How do we show that it is an electric car, yet still an Audi? My team came up with an idea that is both simple and ingenious: The Singleframe grille is always black on an Audi with a combustion engine, because it is open and ventilates the radiator situated behind it. On the Audi e-tron the Singleframe is visually inverted. As a result, you can tell from a distance that it’s an Audi, but an electric one. The Singleframe lets an Audi be an Audi. Even an electric Audi.”

Close up of the Singleframe grille in the Audi e-tron. Close up of the Singleframe grille in the Audi e-tron.

“When it comes to electric mobility, the heart of the vehicle is no longer the engine beneath the hood, but the battery in the floor of the vehicle. What is its capacity? How light is it? What is its range? Accordingly, the Audi Q4 e-tron concept has an expressively designed sill that very clearly signals the location of the car’s beating heart. The front hood on the e-tron has a much more sedate design. Power domes on the hood are a thing of the past.”

“An Audi with a combustion engine features a design with many hard edges. The Audi e-tron models of the future, meanwhile, have gentler and more defined muscles. As such, we are using the design of the vehicles to underline the evolution of the drive system. We are interrupting the shoulder line of the design, which ran along one height for decades, in the center of the vehicle’s side, shifting it further down, and accentuating the muscles of the vehicle silhouette at the front and rear – and thus all four wheels – with gentle lines. This is also reminiscent of the quattro all-wheel drive system, which is deeply rooted in the Audi genes, because the option also exists on the Audi e-tron to use four-wheel drive.”

Some just see beautiful lines. We see character.

Aerodynamics are more important than ever

“It’s not only progressive design that is firmly rooted in the Audi marque, but also progressive thinking in terms of sustainability. It goes without saying that all Audi models are formed in a wind tunnel to make them as efficient as possible. Less wind resistance means fewer energy resources are needed for propulsion. That is why we are once again carefully focusing on aerodynamic design on all of our Audi e-tron models. On electric vehicles, the aerodynamics – along with many other factors – can help increase the range. As designers, we see this as a clear obligation.”

Portrait of Marc Lichte Head of Audi Design. Portrait of Marc Lichte Head of Audi Design.

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