A total of 1,748 people work in the area of Technical Development at Audi’s site in Neckarsulm (as of December 31, 2015). This includes Quattro GmbH, fuel-cell technology, the lightweight construction center, the development of gasoline and diesel engines, motorsport engines and special engines, as well as the development of car interiors.
Audi has established lightweight construction as key element of modern automotive engineering. With the Audi A8* in 1994, the company launched the first car in the world produced in a large series with a monocoque aluminum body. Since then, Audi has continually expanded its expertise and eventually even succeeded in reversing the weight spiral. The engineers make use of the fact that a low body weight also has positive effects on many other components of the overall vehicle – from the engine to the suspension.
At Audi’s lightweight construction center in Neckarsulm, approximately 200 people cooperate closely with research institutes and industrial partners. The expertise gained has so far resulted in 20 car bodies and a triple-digit number of lightweight-construction patents. Furthermore, Audi has already won the “Euro Car Body Award” four times; this is the world’s most important competition for car body builders.
A key building block is delivered by the Technical Center for Fiber Reinforced Plastics. With the new Audi R8*, which was presented in 2015 at the Geneva Motor Show and in is produced at Audi Böllinger Höfe in Neckarsulm, the premium manufacturer is for the first time using carbon-fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP) in the load-bearing body structure. Despite a considerable amount of additional equipment and increased stiffness, the new super sports car is up to 50 kilograms (110 pounds) lighter than its predecessor. The Audi Space Frame (ASF) in multi-material construction with the combination of aluminum and carbon fiber contributes to the lower overall weight and to the optimal weight distribution between the axles, and is the benchmark in the super‑sports‑car segment.
In terms of lighhtweight construction, the new Audi Q7* sets new standards in the segment of large SUVs. Without driver, it weighs just 1,970 kilograms (4,343 pounds) with the 3‑liter TFSI engine and 1,995 kilograms (4,398 pounds) with the 3‑liter TDI. That represents up to 325 kilograms (716 pounds) less weight than the predecessor model. The body makes a great contibution to this progress: With its multimaterial construciton of aluminum and steel, it saves 71 kilograms (156 pounds) . The doors, hood and tailgate, which are made of aluminum, like the complete exterior skin, save another 24 kilograms (53 pounds).
As with the Audi R8 and Audi A8*, the Neckarsulmer production and development site is responsible for developing the body platforms of the Audi Q7, which are also used for other models of the Group.
Aluminum, high-strength and ultra-high-strength steel alloys, magnesium and carbon-fiber reinforced plastics – Audi has detailed and comprehensive knowledge of all body materials from its development work. The philosophy here is “the right material in the right place in the right amount.” The engineers at the Neckarsulm lightweight construction center are pushing the competition between materials forwards, constantly in search of even better solutions. The car body of the future will use these high-end materials in various combinations, depending on the model.
The company has steadily expanded its expertise, also in the area of manufacturing; Numerous high-tech methods have been added. These innovative technologies are implemented at strategically important suppliers, which in turn supply Audi and other brands of the Volkswagen Group. In the field of lightweight construction, the engineers focus not only on the materials, but on the entire production chain – with innovative solutions for process technology, bonding technologies, quality assurance and service and repair possibilities.
Development of fuel-cell technology
The Audi A7 Sportback h-tron quattro epitomizes the progress Audi has made with this drive technology at the Neckarsulm site in recent years. The system consisting of fuel cells and battery delivers 170 kilowatts and accelerates the Audi A7 Sportback h-tron quattro from 0 to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 7.9 seconds. Its top speed is 200 km/h (124 mph) – unique in the segment of hydrogen-powered cars. With one tank full of hydrogen, the Audi A7 Sportback h-tron quattro travels more than 500 kilometers (310 miles).
Neckarsulm is responsible for the development of this technology for AUDI AG. The infrastructure created here has enabled the efficient development of hydrogen drive: A hydrogen filling station and several special test stands for cars with this drive system have been created. The experts in Neckarsulm are in charge of the entire development and application of fuel cells in cars, as well as the integration of the battery in the overall concept of the electric car.
The development of various engines is an important cornerstone of the Neckarsulm site. In addition to V diesel and V gasoline engines for the larger models, the engines for motorsport applications are also developed here.
Since 1983, Quattro GmbH based in Neckarsulm has stood for high performance and high technology. In addition to developing and constructing the RS and R8 models, the Audi subsidiary is responsible for automobile individualization and accessories as well as customer motorsport.
In the year 2015, the new generation of the high-performance sports car was launched. No other series-production car with the Four Rings is more powerful, faster or more distinctive: The new Audi R8* high‑performance sports car is designed for maximum dynamism in all areas of technology – from the Audi Space Frame (ASF) to its aerodynamics to the further developed quattro all-wheel drive. Close cooperation between racing engineers, motorsport specialists and series development staff led to significantly enhanced performance, for the road sports car and for the R8 LMS racing car, which was designed in parallel. Only ten weeks after its world premiere at the Geneva Motor Show, the R8 LMS had a brilliant 24‑hour racing debut with victory at the Nürburgring, and achieved two more podium places at the 24 Hours of Spa in July.
The new Audi R8* produced in a specially built factory at Audi Böllinger Höfe, about six kilometers from the main plant in Neckarsulm. Both the body production and the final assembly feature many new processes and are organized to be highly flexible – specially for the small series. Up to 500 highly qualified people are employed in the new R8 factory, which is operated by Quattro GmbH. In 15 stages each of approximately 30 minutes, they build each car with the greatest care and craftsmanship. Before being delivered, each new high-performance sports car passes through strict quality controls.