Forget the rear spoiler, the Audi Airomorph changes shape to cheat the wind

Today’s Audi R18 e-tron quattro is about as advanced as a car can get. The Le Mans-winning racer features a diesel-electric hybrid powertrain, and lightweight bodywork that wouldn’t look out of place in outer space.

Where will race cars go from here, though?

That’s the question Art Center College of Design student Eric Kim sought to answer with the Audi Airomorph. His senior thesis project at the prestigious design school, it represents one possible future for racing.

RELATED: Are rotary-driven hybrids the future of endurance racing?

Created with input from Audi designer Kris Vancoppenolle, the Airomoprh uses fabric panels to adjust aerodynamics as it laps a course, a technology inspired by racing catamarans, according to Autoblog.

The “body” is made from a single sheet of expansion-resistant material that’s stretched over a rigid frame underneath, and has to be inflated like a balloon. It’s anchored at the wheels with cables. Hydraulic actuators tug on the cables to change the shape of the fabric on the fly.

Designers are always trying to balance the yin and yang of drag and downforce, but the Airomorph could theoretically emphasize both, and switch from one to the other as needed.

In profile view, the Airomorph looks somewhat like the current R18, with a prominent vertical stabilizer fin. However, the wheels look decidedly sci-fi.

There may be some as-yet-univented propulsion system intended for this futuristic racer, as well as a system for seeing out of it, as there don’t appear to be any windows.

The Airomorph is just a design concept, of course, but it shows that no matter how advanced today’s cars may appear to be, there are always new things to try.

(Images courtesy of Eric Kim)

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