A Sporty New EV Coupe Concept
While the number of electric car options has really multiplied over the last couple of years, with dozens of great sedans, SUVs, and pickup trucks hitting the market, there really aren’t many sporty EV options available. While the Porsche Taycan and Audi e-tron GT offer incredible performance, exceptional handling, and immense capability in sleek, sexy packages, they still have four doors, and they’re big and heavy. That’s why a small, retro-looking sports car produced by a group of apprentices at Audi is so appealing: small, light, and responsive, it shows the potential for EV sports cars of the future.
EV Conversion for NSU Prinz
Before we all get too excited, the white, black, and green Audi EP4 concept car created by the apprentices won’t be on sale anytime soon. Created to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the site of Audi’s factory in Neckarsulm, Germany, it’s strictly a one-off, based on the NSU Prinz 4, a model produced at Neckarsulm between 1961 and 1973. The EP4 name combines “P4” for Prinz 4 with “E” for electric drive, bringing together the historic model with modern EV technology.
The original NSU Prinz was powered by a rear-mounted two-cylinder, 30-hp gasoline engine. In its place is a significantly more compact electric drive motor with eight times the power – the 240 hp drive unit comes from a 2020 Audi e-tron SUV. A compact, lightweight battery pack has been sourced from the plug-in hybrid Audi Q7 TFSI e-quattro, and sits under the front hood, where the original NSU Prinz had its fuel tank.
A wide air intake at the bottom of the front bumper breathes in cooling air for the electric motor and the battery, and heat escapes through a large opening in the front hood, which also contributes to aerodynamic downforce and thus stability. At the rear, the engine cover is also designed to improve cooling, and the car can actually be driven with the cover half-open, similar to historic racing cars, and exposing the electric powerplant where carburetors and a gasoline engine used to reside.
Audi EP4: Carbon-Fiber Construction
While the EP4 looks thoroughly modern, it has clear relations to the original NSU Prinz, with front and rear LED lights shaped like the original car, and the body shell from the 1970s retaining the car’s distinctive roof and shoulder lines. An original NSU Prinz body shell was completely re-finished in modern Audi colors of Suzuka Grey and black, with Signal Yellow accents. The EP4 project features numerous carbon-fiber components, which are familiar from motorsport and help reduce the vehicle’s weight to improve performance and efficiency.
Underneath the retro looks, the massively increased performance of the electric drivetrain meant the chassis and body had to be modified extensively. The platform, including the brakes and axles, is actually from a gasoline-powered Audi A1, a compact hatchback not sold in North America. A significantly wider track and extra-wide tires are stuffed underneath widened bodywork. Audi’s design studio created the extensions, which were 3D-printed before being fused with the steel body. At the rear, the wing, painted in Signal Yellow, is not actually attached to the body, but to the roll cage, and its supports actually go through the rear window.
Inside, the Signal Yellow roll cage contrasts strongly with serious-looking black elements, including racy Recaro bucket seats. Classical gauges have been replaced by an on-board computer screen, with digital gauges and displays.
Learning New Technology and Processes
The EP4 was created by apprentices across various Audi departments – automotive mechatronics, bodywork, vehicle construction, and paint – in just seven months. Trainers from the Audi departments worked alongside the apprentices to shepherd the project along within Audi’s technical development framework. The apprentices were therefore able to learn a lot about the company’s processes and methods while creating their concept car – putting their theoretical training into practical use.
"The project gave our apprentices a chance to work freely with different techniques and materials,” said Timo Engler, Audi’s head of training for vehicle technology and logistics. “For example, in addition to the electric drive, they used 3D printing, a second technology of the future. Carbon fiber - familiar from motorsport - was also used for the front hood.
But the trainees have not only learned a lot in terms of craftsmanship. In the case of EP4, the vision and deadline were very ambitious. It's great to see how the junior staff have grown with their task and what a leap in development they have made as a team."