Glimpse of tomorrow in concept cars
Audi Urban Concept. Supplied picture

Car companies will need to become more imaginative, and innovative, if they want to continue to meet our transport needs, according to the world's fastest-growing luxury car maker.

The world's population is expected to reach nine billion by 2050 and more than 60 per cent of those people will be living in cities, which will see our transport requirements change dramatically.

At a Future Mobility workshop in Munich this week, Audi's manager of corporate and strategy planning, Dominik Stampfl, said our use of the automobile would change.

Less people were likely to own vehicles, with car sharing and pooling becoming more common.

We would also turn to various other forms of mobility. Mr Stampfl said this could include anything from mono-wheel scooters to electric skateboards or small, single-seat cars.

Ultimately, whatever form of transport we choose, it will be powered by an electric motor.

And Audi is already working on concepts, such as its e-bike (an electric bike capable of speeds up to 80km/h) and its urban spyder concept (a two-seater electric sports car) to ensure it delivers the right transport solutions.

Audi e-bike. Supplied picture

In the more immediate future, Audi is pursuing its aim of becoming a carbon-neutral company. To achieve this ambitious goal it is developing technologies to improve its current engines, working in partnership with bio-technology companies to create fuels from renewable energy sources and creating mobility solutions.

Over the next decade Audi believes it can reduce the fuel consumption of its current range of petrol and diesel engines by a further 15 and 30 per cent respectively through new technologies such as the electric turbocharger it is testing on its V6 diesel engine.

We will also see the introduction of a mechanism that switches the engine off when it is coasting (a second battery system will ensure features like steering, braking and air-conditioning continue to work), as well as a broader use of cylinder de-activation, even in four-cylinder engines. Audi is also continuing to develop its hybrid technology and wants to be the leading premium manufacturer of electric vehicles by 2020.

It used the workshop to reveal its second-generation A1 e-tron plug-in hybrid, which was on display alongside its electric R8 e-tron supercar that recently completed the north loop of the renowned Nurburgring racetrack in world record time.

The compact A1 e-tron is powered by two electric motors and a three-cylinder, 1.5-litre petrol engine. It can be powered by a single electric motor or all three engines, depending on how it is being driven and the charge status of the lithium-ion batteries.

The A1 e-tron has a range of 90km in electric-only mode and 600km overall.

While we had the opportunity to drive the A1 e-tron at the workshop, there is still no set time for this compact city car to go into production.

Audi is also heavily involved in the development of fuels such as compressed natural gas, synthetic diesel and ethanol using renewable energy and resources.

It has already started building a gas plant in Germany which is expected to be producing CNG by 2014, in time for the release of its new A3 Sportback TNCG.

It is also working on producing synthetic fuels, which will be made using electricity from renewable sources such as wind, solar, water and carbon dioxide.

The West Australian

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