Audi, Tesla Head To Miami With Very Different Takes On The Electric Car

December 3, 2010

Art festivals are big business these days, and they all take different forms. Some, like the ones in Venice, Sao Paolo, and New Orleans look like museum exhibitions splattered across entire cities. Others, like the one taking place in Miami this weekend, look like super-schmancy versions of you local art fair, with high-end displays from some of the world's best creative minds. So it's not really surprising that two of Planet Earth's most outspoken automakers have taken their forward-thinking projects to Art Basel Miami. No, what's surprising is their very different takes on the electric car.

Tesla took the straightforward route: the company asked digital artist Laurence Gartel to turn a Tesla Roadster into a fairly traditional art car. We've posted some sneak peeks in the gallery below, but the ride wil officially be unveiled to the public tonight at Gartel’s Art Basel celebration at Nikki Beach. (FYI, Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield has some nice coverage of the Roadster at AllCarsElectric.)

Audi took a different approach. In keeping with the company's brash, often-contentious demeanor, Audi created a conceptual work called "e-den", featuring its much-hyped e-tron spyder EV. "e-den" is an installation that looks a lot like a chic nightclub crossed with a gas station -- in fact, it features a mid-20th-century gas pump in a display case, presumably to show e-tron drivers what life was like for their ancestors.

What's the point of creating such a cool, relaxing, hang-out space? To drive home the point that it's going to take a damn long time for that e-tron to charge up. Peter Schwarzenbauer from Audi's Board of Management for Marketing and Sales had this to say:

“Our aim in creating this installation is to heighten the public’s awareness of the wide range of challenges electromobility presents. And we provide food for thought – not just about electric vehicles themselves, but also about the infrastructure that will have to be created to support electric mobility."

In other words: "Yeah, you think you want electric cars, but just wait 'till you're late for your kid's ballet recital and have to a stop for a recharge. Bring a book, people."

So while Tesla seems unequivocally enthusiastic about the future of EVs, Audi is straddling the fence. On the one hand, the automaker is hoping to get the public excited about its electric lineup. (There'll be a fully electric R8 e-tron supercar released for the 2012 model year.) On the other hand, Audi seems to hold on to Johan de Nysschen's skepticism about EVs (and the people who drive them). Which is a pretty smart way for Audi to hedge its bets, because whichever way EVs go, the company can say, "See? We told you so."   

If you're in Miami this weekend, drop us a line and let us know what other car goodies you've seen -- and please bring back some warmer weather.

P.S. We've pasted the Audi press release beneath the gallery below. Nothing official available for Tesla yet.

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Audi at Design Miami/: Filling up on creativity

- Audi exhibits futuristic “e-den” charging station at Design Miami/2010
- A matter of time: charging takes longer than conventional fueling
- Audi takes an active part in discussions on electromobility

HERNDON, Va., Nov 30, 2010  -  Fill it up, pay, and get on your way. It probably won’t be that easy with electric cars, since charging takes longer than filling up with gasoline or diesel. At Design Miami/ 2010, Audi takes a playful look at this aspect: What can drivers do in the meantime? What amenities will charging stations of the future have to offer?

Wood furniture and fresh potted herbs, organic food, magazines and coffee-table books – this futuristic service station is a wellness oasis featuring fair-trade products and sustainable materials. A real paradise, hence the title of the installation: “e-den.” The “e” stands for electromobility. Munich-based graphic design studio Mirko Borsche created this vision imagining a greener tomorrow where traditional gas stations no longer exist, but have transformed into more intimate places of encounter and relaxation.

The installation is dominated by reflective glass that mirrors the resplendent Audi e-tron Spyder, a study in electric vehicle design. The architecture is also reminiscent of a 1950s American gas station, with an old gasoline pump encased in glass like a museum piece serving as a reminder of the oil-dependent past. 

“Our aim in creating this installation is to heighten the public’s awareness of the wide range of challenges electromobility presents. And we provide food for thought – not just about electric vehicles themselves, but also about the infrastructure that will have to be created to support electric mobility”, says Peter Schwarzenbauer, Member of the Audi Board of Management for Marketing and Sales. “Design Miami/, the global forum for design, is an excellent venue in this regard.”

"Design is the art form aimed at imagining a better, richer, more comfortable everyday life. Today we find the most compelling design work stretches farthest in imagining a better future,” adds Wava Carpenter, Acting Director Design Miami/. „Audi’s proposal for a gasoline-less filling station for electric cars which shown at Design Miami/ is a perfect example of this”.

At Audi, conventional ways of seeing and thinking are continually challenged in order to advance the company and to play an active role in shaping the mobility of the future. As part of the Audi Urban Future Award 2010 architectural competition, Audi took a close look at individual mobility in the city of the future. Furthermore Audi presented four electric vehicle concepts with its e-tron family within just one year – and the small-series, 100% electric R8 e-tron supercar will be on the market in 2012.

Together with a new generation of hybrid vehicles, the e-models form a strong cornerstone of Audi's strategy for helping shape trends in society and developments in the market. The development of these different technological concepts demonstrates the holistic approach pursued by Audi as regards to sustainable mobility, rounded up by Audi’s core competences of aluminum lightweight construction and other key technologies such as TDI clean diesel, TFSI and research for new fuels and intelligent vehicles.

As Exclusive Automotive Sponsor, Audi has experimented at Design Miami/ with themes such as mobility, technology, material and design since the partnership’s inception: installations ranging from the spectacular “Ignition R8” exhibit in 2006, where are an approximately 10-meter-high sculpture symbolized ignition in the mid engined Audi R8 as the “big bang of dynamism“ to last year’s "Art of Progress" immediately following the A8’s world premiere where the full-size car turned into a miniature collectible on a coffee-table surrounded by supersized furniture.

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