The Technical Development division of AUDI AG has its headquarters in Ingolstadt, with additional development centers in Neckarsulm, Győr, Beijing and San José Chiapa. On an area of approximately 33.5 hectares, about 7,000 of the total 8,400 Audi development personnel work here, in addition to process partners from production planning, quality assurance, procurement and controlling. Its tasks include the full spectrum of the product-creation process: from design and new vehicle concepts to the development of engines and transmissions and the electrification of the powertrains to vehicle concepts, electrical and electronic development and the development of car bodies and suspension. Interconnected and interdepartmental work with the latest working tools and instruments facilitate innovative solutions for upcoming challenges such as urbanization, digitalization and sustainable premium mobility. Other requirements placed on product development are also rising continually. True to the brand motto of “Vorsprung durch Technik,” Audi’s engineers and technicians are implementing a broad-based innovation offensive with substantial investment.
Since the summer of 2012, Technical Development in Ingolstadt has had a new visiting card: the SE Forum. SE stands for simultaneous engineering – the integrated and concurrent development of products and processes. This approach will further reduce the development cycles of new models. 450 employees from development, the model series and technical project management work at the SE Forum with the task of shaping the automotive future. With a new data center on two basement levels, the heart of the company’s IT also beats in this new complex. The new data center operates “green IT,” reducing energy consumption and CO2 emissions by at least one third. The second part of the complex was completed in summer 2014. Approximately 1,000 employees from development and procurement now work in the northern wing of the SE Forum on eleven floors. In addition, ultramodern test labs and testing equipment have been integrated.
The new Lighting Assistance Center is located in the basement of this highest building on the Ingolstadt site. It is the biggest transportable light tunnel in Europe. From Xenon plus headlights to matrix-LED headlights and laser lights, Audi has been putting pioneering innovations into series production for 20 years. With the new Lighting Assistance Center, Audi is further extending its lead in automotive lighting technology. In the 120-meter-long matt-black tunnel, the development engineers test such systems as adaptives high beam and camera-based lighting assistance systems. Such systems avoid dazzling drivers of oncoming vehicles and increase road safety.
The area of Technical Development in Ingolstadt includes the Physics Center, which consists of offices, laboratories and workshops, and allows close cooperation between the departments for acoustics, mechanical engineering, material strength and corrosion. Various measuring and testing devices for components and vehicles are installed here, such as an exterior-noise test rig to make sure that legal limits are complied with, a road simulator for testing structural strength, a level-track test rig for measuring performance and fuel consumption, a material-strength and energy-flow simulator, as well as roller dynamometers and other major test installations. Various types of test equipment for components and modules are also available, some of which can be subjected to different climates and weather conditions. An extension is due to be completed in late 2015; it will be equipped with experimental large-scale simulators and test installations for compliance with statutory CO2 limits. Key factors for meeting CO2 targets are investments in the two energy-flow simulators: “single-wheel brake” and “level track.”
The Electronics Center was added in 2013. This is a transparent, terraced building with a glazed atrium, linking two building complexes with each other (offices and workshops). The focus is on interaction also in this building. The project teams are close together to facilitate communication and collaboration. The Electronics Center accommodates various measuring and testing rigs for vehicles, for example board layouts of the entire vehicle electronics for testing complex components, a climate rolling road for simulating different weather and road-surface conditions, an MMI (multi-media interface) laboratory and an acoustics lab for developing sound concepts. In 2010, two system-test facilities for high-voltage batteries were set up. Each unit has an electrical power rating of 150 kW and can test batteries with voltage of up to 500 volts and current of up to 500 amps. In order to minimize energy consumption, the energy discharged by the batteries can be fed into the electricity network.
The plant in Ingolstadt has its own Wind Tunnel Center with three test units: the aeroacoustic wind tunnel, the thermal wind tunnel and, since late 2007, a new climatic wind tunnel. With wind speeds of up to 300 kilometer per hour, car aerodynamics are refined, interior air-conditioning and thermal management are developed and wind noise is reduced. When the Audi models have passed through the three wind tunnels, they can be used under all ambient conditions.
Audi design is progressive and creative. In the outdoor area of Technical Development in Ingolstadt, the new Design Center is being built and will be completed in 2016. This is where designers, project managers and model technicians will work together on the latest series models and show cars and thus on the future of the company. Ultimately, design is the main factor influencing customers to buy an Audi. The focus is always on close cooperation with the engineers from the other Technical Development departments. Approximately 300 designers work in Ingolstadt altogether. In addition to the Technical Development division in Ingolstadt, the concept design studio in Munich plays a major role in the development of innovative design and product concepts. There too, an international creative team works on the continuous further development of Audi design for maximum customer appeal.
In the Design Check department, decisions made in the development process are verified with the use of state-of-the-art technology. Audi was the first European automobile manufacturer to apply a new presentation technology – in digital cinema quality. In the virtual reality studios, future vehicle models can be viewed before they are produced for the first time – realistically and in full detail. The various materials seem to be tangible and “true to life” – from the brilliant paintwork to the fine leather structure. The realistic lighting effects with shadows and reflections give viewers the impression that they could get into the car and drive away!
The first building of the Main Component Center was completed in 2007. On roller-type dynamometers, measurements of emissions and fuel consumption are carried out under climatic conditions. Driving performance with all-wheel drive is tested in a simulation chamber at altitudes up to 4,200 meters. In the adjacent workshops and modern transmission test stands, major components are set up and tested before they go into use. Attractive office workplaces encourage the development engineers’ creativity and team spirit. In 2010, the Main Component Center was expanded to include a new development and test center for electric drive systems. In the area of Technical Development, a new building was constructed with total floor space of 14,000 square meters accommodating ultramodern test stands for testing electric drive concepts. The concentration of test stands for e-mobility in this development and testing center ensures optimal networking of the development engineers involved in this work. In a continuous process on seven floors, the Audi engineers carry out tests of all the individual components, simulate the interaction between drivetrain, battery and power electronics, and test the use of the entire powertrain.
In the Audi Pre-Series Center, which was inaugurated in 2008, the tasks of Technical Development and Production are brought together in a single area of responsibility. This means that already in the early development phase – as well as securing the desired product features and manufacturing techniques – the economical production of cars is also ensured.
Since 1995, Technical Development has been testing new developments in various driving situations at its own Test Grounds in Neustadt an der Donau. Tests are carried out there of driving performance, fuel consumption, noise levels, temperature and braking on a 4-7-kilometer oval track. In addition to surfaces in various conditions, a steep gradient, two handling courses and a dynamic surface, there is also an ultramodern anticorrosion center. Another test track was added in 2004 with the name “poor country road” for assessing ride comfort. The oval eastern curve was widened with two additional inside lanes in 2008. Since September 2010, there has been Testing Center 2 with 1,200 square meters of workshop floor space. A multifunctional space of 12,700 square meters was added in June 2011. The main activity here is the further development and testing of driver assistance systems and systems for integral safety. In 2012, the multifunctional space was expanded with a three-lane, 200-meter starting track, a functional building was constructed at the oval test track, and a freshwater ford with a depth of up to 70 centimeters was installed for functional tests. The new logistics center in the outdoor area of the text oval went into operation in March 2013.