Designed in 1993, the Audi Space Frame is a revolutionary method of building car bodies from aluminium and magnesium that makes them far lighter than they would be if made with steel. This means that the cars that use the technology are both fast and fuel efficient.
Initially, the ASF was engineered with performance in mind. Lightness is essential when trying to make a fast car, and it will come as little surprise that the current models that use the technology are the luxury A8, sporty TT and the R8 supercar. Audi have always had one eye on luxury, and where other manufacturers might look to remove unnecessary cabin items, Audi want to make sure that the driver has everything he or she needs.
What makes the ASF different to other aluminium bodies is that it also incorporates magnesium into the structure. The end result is an extremely strong and rigid frame that weighs a lot less than traditional bodies. Companies such as RD Castings cast aluminium products for numerous different industries because they are durable and light, but magnesium certainly improves things.
Interestingly, Jaguar saw how successful the aluminium A8 was, and replicated the style by fabricating their flagship XJ out of the metal. The end result was a car 40% lighter than the steel equivalent. While the top of the range XJR was still a gas-guzzling super saloon, the 2.7 diesel model was comparatively efficient for its size and specification.
An Economical Supercar
Recently, Audi unveiled a new supercar, called the e-tron. This all-electric vehicle is capable of hitting 62mpgh from dead in just 4.8 seconds. A great deal of its success is based upon the fact that the main body is of course based on ASF technology. Doors and other peripheral parts are constructed from fibre-reinforced plastic.
Audi are now planning a range of all-electric vehicles, inspired by the e-tron, but they are not necessarily going to feature space frame technology. One of the primary reasons that electric cars are still not widespread is that they can be very expensive. The ASF would further push up these costs.
Perhaps in the future however, Audi’s Space Frame technology will continue to help making fast cars more environmentally friendly.