Audi's R8 has been chosen as the best of the best at a leading international design awards event - with two other models from the German manufacturer picking up prizes.
The R8 was named "best of the best" at the red dot awards with Audi's A3 Sportback and the S3 also winning titles for their styling quality.
Audi's head of interior design, Enzo Rothfuss, accepted the award this week in Essen, Germany.
"Design is a dynamic process in which we all seek to blend tradition with vision," said Rothfuss at the awards gala.
The award acknowledges aesthetic form but also takes into consideration pioneering trends and the designers' innovations.
The jury of 37 experts from 24 countries decided on the R8 because "it is designed and elaborated to an extraordinarily high level. Its proportions are balanced, it has perfect poise and its aesthetics are of a high calibre."
It was chosen from a selection of more than 4600 products and projects entered from 54 countries.
"Choosing new directions in design first of all involves questioning every design with a critical eye," commented Audi chief designer Wolfgang Egger. "The design process often resembles a dynamic car trip, with all its highs and lows. For innovative creation to take place, things repeatedly need to be looked at from a variety of perspectives and new solutions invented without losing sight of the brand's DNA."
Meanwhile, Audi opened an e-gas plant in Werlte, northwest Germany, last week, making it the first motor vehicle manufacturer to develop a chain of sustainable energy carriers. It begins with green electricity, water and carbon dioxide and the end products are hydrogen and the synthetic methane known as Audi e-gas.
"Audi is taking a giant step towards the mobility of the future," said Heinz Hollerweger, head of total vehicle development, in his speech at the inauguration. "Audi is the only manufacturer worldwide with such innovative technology. Research into synthetic, environment-friendly fuels is the core of our vigorous e-fuels strategy." Reiner Mangold, head of sustainable product development, added, "The power-to-gas facility we built in Werlte can become a beacon project for the entire energy revolution, far beyond the boundaries of our company."
Peter Altmaier, German Minister of the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, also commended Audi's commitment.
The e-gas plant works in two process steps: electrolysis and methanation. In the first step, the plant uses surplus green electricity to break water down into oxygen and hydrogen in three electrolysers. The hydrogen could one day power fuel-cell vehicles. For the time being, in the absence of an area-wide infrastructure, a second process step is carried out directly: methanation. The hydrogen is combined with CO2 to produce synthetic methane, or Audi e-gas. It is virtually identical to fossil natural gas and will be distributed using an existing infrastructure, the German natural gas network, to the CNG filling stations. The plant is scheduled to begin feeding Audi e-gas to the grid this year.
The Audi e-gas plant will produce about 1000 tonnes of e-gas each year, chemically binding some 2800 tonnes of CO2. This roughly corresponds to the amount that a forest of more than 220,000 beech trees absorbs in one year. Water and oxygen are the only byproducts.
Audi built the e-gas plant in collaboration with the plant construction specialist Etogas (formerly SolarFuel) and its project partner MT-BioMethan on a 4100sq m plot of land owned by EWE. The efficient use of energy flows is the top priority in the production sequence of the plant. The waste heat given off during methanation is used as process energy in the adjacent biogas plant, increasing overall efficiency. In return, this plant supplies the highly concentrated CO2 required as a basic building block for the e-gas. This CO2 thus serves as a raw material and is not emitted to the atmosphere.
It is expected that the e-gas from Werlte will power 1500 new Audi A3 Sportback g-tron vehicles for 15,000km of CO2-neutral driving every year. The 1.4 TFSI in the five-door model can burn natural gas, biomethane and Audi e-gas.