Most automakers are in a constant battle with who has the fastest Nurburgring time or who can have the best infotainment connectivity. Audi is currently doing something that makes those achievements seem petty and minuscule. Audi is going to space. And it’s doing it with the Audi Lunar Quattro.
The fact that Audi is making a lunar rover isn’t actually news. We’ve known the Audi Lunar Rover has been currently in production with PTS (Part Time Scientists) in Germany for some time now. But now both Audi at PTS are working hard on finalizing some very important details that will help it actually traverse the lunar surface. Automobile Magazine has a great piece on both companies about the Audi Lunar Quattro and what it takes to ready it for actual moon travel.
“This mission is a great challenge. And to solve this challenge, the most important technical competencies of Audi are needed: lightweight design, electrification, and digitalization,” says Alexander Schmidt, one of Audi AG’s lead development engineers for the effort. “There is no repair shop that the rover can drive into for a service, so it needs to work without a hitch throughout the whole mission.”
One of the interesting challenges face was to make it as light as possible, so as it reduce on only the payload of the shuttle getting it to the moon but making it easier to actually traverse the surface of the moon. “Originally we were using standard industrial hard aluminum until Audi introduced us to its 3D-printed aluminum,” said Robert Böhme, CEO of Part-Time Scientists of the Lunar Quattro’s construction. “You’re taking aluminum powder that you can blend with other materials to create your own flavor of material. We created a very special brand of aluminum and started building new structures. Eighty percent of the rover’s parts are now 3D-printed, aluminum-based parts. They worked really, really well in tests and didn’t break at all, which was a really big surprise for us.”
Another incredible challenge is figuring out how to keep out lunar dust, also called regolith. “It’s 1,000 times finer than the finest grain of sand that you can find here on Earth. And it is very, very sharp,” said Böhme. “When Apollo astronauts took off their suits, they realized that lunar dust had gotten into their air-tight suits. And not just their suits but also under their skin, which really freaked them out. If the regolith gets into our rover’s gear subsystem, the gears will go down in only a few seconds.” One of the problems with this testing is that there’s no way to really replicate that sort of environment, so neither Audi nor PTS truly knows what’s going to happen when it gets up there.
The Audi Lunar Quattro will obviously be electric, with four individual electric motors housed inside each wheel. It will also have three cameras on board, two stereo cameras and one capable of high-def panoramic photos.
It’s remarkable to think that Audi is currently working on a lunar rover, something that will actually be driving on the moon. The full piece by Automobile is great and worth a read. Go check it out.