Audi is in the headlines for changing a piece of car technology that is very important yet relatively unnoticed—suspension springs. Steel is the material of choice for suspension springs used in vehicles, but the German automaker is opting for something much lighter.
The material Audi uses to make suspension springs with is glass fiber-reinforced polymer (GFRP). This makes for lightweight springs, about 40 percent lighter than the steel variety. This reduces 2.5 pounds per spring and about 9.7 pounds overall for a large mid-size car.
Half of the latter figure accounts for unsprung mass, which affects handling and ride quality alike. Reducing unsprung mass improves both aspects better than reducing sprung mass. According to Ulrich Hackenberg, member of Audi’s Board of Management for Technical Development, GFRP springs cut weight where it counts in the chassis. This is how the springs help offer a more comfortable ride.
The GFRP springs are quite distinct from standard steel springs, and not only in terms of weight. These are bigger in diameter and has less coils. These are made from twisted long glass fibers infused with epoxy resin, which are then covered in more glass fibers at alternating angles. After the glass fiber and epoxy resin structure is completed, the spring is cured at over 100 degrees Celsius in an oven. The end result are springs which are lightweight yet durable, and can handle stresses the same way steel springs can. Due to its composition, they will not rust or be damaged by harsh chemicals.
Moreover, GFRP springs prove to be more environment-friendly. Compared to steel spring production, the manufacture of the composite springs requires less energy.
Audi plans to start manufacturing the GFRP springs by fall 2014 and introduce it in one of its mid-size models in the latter part of the year.
Another technology Audi will be introducing in its vehicles is Apple CarPlay. The automaker will start offering Apple’s in-car system in all-new models slated to arrive in Europe in 2015. CarPlay will be offered in Audi models to be sold in the United States in 2016.
According to Audi spokesman Brad Stertz, CarPlay will be an additional offering for models that have Audi Music Interface and that the addition of Apple’s system is not going to raise the vehicle’s price.
Apple CarPlay will allow Audi drivers to access their iPhone’s features and content just by connecting the mobile device to their car, keeping distractions at a minimum. They can answer phone calls, receive and respond to messages and listen to music through the car’s existing controls. Drivers have the option to access features of CarPlay or those of Audi’s infotainment system, and easily switch between the two.
Audi has yet to specify which models will be equipped with CarPlay.
Photo credit: volkswagenag.com