As part of a series of concept vehicles, Audi released the AI:Trail. There’s a number of automotive news outlets that have covered it detail, so I won’t go into specific details here. Long story short, it’s a concept vehicle designed for off-road use. It’s electric, and I think it looks really neat.
Like with other concept vehicles, there’s a few things about it that wouldn’t quite it to the real world, but as a design exercise, it’s still quite refreshing.
Because it has an electric drive train, there’s no need for the traditional “engine at the front” design like a pickup truck. In this case, the designers took some freedoms with that. They added the ability to flip the windshield up to store things in the front – almost like a hatchback, but on the front. Would that make it a hatchfront?
Some of the other concept’s interesting features:
- “Drone headlights”. Rather than having forward facing bright lights fixed on the vehicle, drones take off from the roof rack, and shine on the road ahead. (This is definitely quite fanciful, but still a refreshing take on things)
- Suicide doors. (What sort of concept wouldn’t be complete without doors that open in a different way?)
- Rear seats that can be pulled out, and set up elsewhere, in a sling sort of way. This, I find quite interesting. In theory, it could also mean that the seats can be folded up, much smaller than if they were a solid object. Thing of scrunching up a piece of fabric vs. a rigid-backed seat.
- As mentioned, the “storage in the front”, complete with some simple tie-down straps. (No doubt, so that when you stomp on the accelerator, things don’t fly into your face).
- A clear panel out the front, for some really good forward visibility, as well as a very low belt line out the doors.
- Lots of natural looking materials used in the cabin – rope handles, wood, etc.
I can definitely pick up the vibe that Audi was going for with this concept. I think there’s a core of something interesting here, even if it is just a concept.
If I were to make changes to it, I’d do the following:
- Fix the windshield in place, and add some sort of wipers to it. Maybe bottom mounted in the corners, similar to a Honda Civic.
- Add a few solar panels to the roof rack. Not for the sake of adding any sort of appreciable range to the vehicle, but to reduce any sort of vampire drain on the battery.
- Swap out the suicide doors for something that folds upward, or pivots out of the way. Don’t necessarily have them cut into the roof line of the vehicle, but still have them fold up or out. If they folded up, it could provide shelter when raining. The downside to that is it restricts access to the roof rack.
- Leave a portion of the running board attached to the vehicle, and not to the door. This could be used as a step to help get into the vehicle. It also could be used as a seat, if you are sitting there with the door open. It would also be used as a step to reach up further onto the roof. (Although reaching onto the roof if the doors fold up could be tricky).
- Add headlights. They could be molded into the front little wings that protrude over the wheels.
- Add fenders over the wheels that move with each wheel, independent from the rest of the vehicle. This would prevent a lot of road spray from happening in wet conditions. Make them detachable so that they can be removed if going over particularly rough terrain.
- Add a winch and front/rear bumpers. Also, some sort of rear hatch, if it doesn’t have one already.
All-in-all, I really do like what Audi was going for. It makes me want to make my own version of it. I’d love to talk to the design team that worked on it, as well as the team that built the prototype to get an idea of how they did certain things.