The impressive Audi e-tron GT was presented to the global public in February 2021. It is Audi’s first electric sports car and it took home the title of World Performance Car at the World Car Awards 2022, an annual event known as the “Oscars of the automotive world”. While the Audi prologue in 2014 was the starting signal, the Audi e-tron GT concept show car was unveiled in Los Angeles in 2018. Just three years later, the Audi e-tron GT entered production. Here is how it came to life.
Marc Lichte, Head of Design with the Audi e-tron GT.
Every brilliant idea is born on a blank sheet of paper. The car development process takes four years and the first two years are engaged in design. It usually starts with a sketch. Ten to fifteen people design the vehicle and then it is reduced to two designs. In the end, one remains. “With the e-tron GT, it was like there was never one. We built a proportion model and then realised that this model looked so exciting that we didn’t even start the design process,” says Marc Lichte, Head of Design.
Exterior car design is always based on perfect proportions. You could call the exterior design almost a quattro sculpture. “quattro is a very important gene in the Audi DNA and e-tron GT really makes it visible – extreme muscles on all four wheels,” adds Marc Lichte. Aerodynamics is also extremely important for the driving range of battery electric vehicles. The sum of the active aerodynamics measures in this vehicle extends its driving range by 30 km.
The emotional four-door Gran Turismo fascinates with its sculptural design: a long wheelbase, wide track, large wheels and a slim cabin. “If you want to implement these proportions in an all-electric car, it is very challenging because there is a battery placed relatively high in the underbody. We still managed to make this car flatter than the Audi prologue. That’s really incredible and was also the biggest challenge in this project,” elaborates Marc Lichte.
The sculptural and fluid formal language of the exterior is also continued in the interior. You can see this on the dashboard in the centre, how the surfaces flow across the dashboard and down the MMI display. The driving experience gets completed in the seating position, as you are sitting extremely low, and the steering wheel is right in front of you. The dashboard is segmented into two horizontal layers that create a sense of depth and also a floating lightness.
Upholstery is available either as a combination of artificial leather and the Kaskade material or as a mixture of artificial leather and the microfiber material Dinamica. In both cases, the covers consist predominantly of materials such as polyester fibres that were made from recycled PET bottles, textiles, or residual fibres. Each set of Kaskade covers is made of 119 recycled plastic bottles.
The driving experience also had to be audible. Engineers Rudolf Halbmeir and Stephan Gsell designed this digital sound in the Audi sound lab. The tool used was a program that the team of Audi sound designers programmed themselves to create sounds.
Workflows on assembly line and associated logistics processes being tested virtually.
The e-tron GT was brought into series production quicker than any other Audi before and without the use of physical prototypes. All this was possible because Audi’s team could first try out all the assembly processes virtually in the 3P workshop – production, preparation and process. They were able to test different work operations with VR glasses and controllers using software developed inhouse by Audi. The assembly line at Böllinger Höfe was expanded from 16 to 36 cycles and the workflow for simultaneously manufacturing both the R8 and e-tron GT was tested using VR.
The assembly facility at Böllinger Höfe in Germany.
The inner side and the outer side of the body are joined together in the two-fold framer. The body goes through the same station twice and the interior and exterior of the e-tron GT are assembled in a fully automatic process. Following the automated body assembly line, the body enters the mounting stage, where trained body manufacturers mount the fenders, the doors, and the engine hood. After completing the mounting stage, the bodies enter the finishing area.
The next stage sees experienced welders achieve a perfect seam by hand. Measurements are taken from 350 different points on the e-tron GT. Before the bodies enter the paint shop at the end of the line, Audi’s experts check the surfaces and gap sizes on every body. Once the bodies have been painted, driverless vehicles transport them from the basement, back upstairs to the production line.
During the first cycles of the electric overhead conveyor rail, employees install the interior of the e-tron GT. This is followed by the marriage of the assembled bodies with the battery, electric motors, and suspension. These major technical modules are placed on a workpiece carrier, which is positioned below the body with millimetre precision. Employees screw the battery and the drive components to the body at 74 points using intelligent, self-positioning power screwdrivers.
The final stations on the conveyor belt are devoted to the commissioning processes where the highly integrated systems are finally activated. Employees drive the car over the dynamometers and calibration stands for the suspension, headlights, assist systems and braking systems. After that, the Audi e-tron GT is driven along a test and vibration track with different surfaces, following which it completes a journey of around 40 kilometres on public roads.
The e-tron GT undergoing the leak test in the sprinkler chamber.
In the sprinkler chamber, it has to pass a leak test and the finish check in two successive light tunnels. Under the eyes and hands of specialists from production and quality assurance, nothing is left to chance. Several battery and crash tests are followed by test drives in extreme heat and relentless cold, on ice, in the desert, in the mountains and off road to guarantee the car’s quality.
And then, it is finally ready to be shipped to the showroom to be purchased by an avid Audi owner.