It’s safe to say that most of the EVs that have reached the market in the past few years—and will reach it in the next five years—fall into just a handful of categories, with sedans, SUVs, and a few trucks all hoping to get a slice of their respective segments. Far more difficult is it to find electric coupes, station wagons, minivans, or convertibles in the works, with a few narrow exceptions.
That’s why the Aura concept feels like a breath of fresh air, and acts as a reminder that occasionally EV buyers want something other than a midsize crossover in a silver metallic color.
Created by a consortium of British automotive suppliers and tech companies, the Aura aims to be a glimpse of EV sports cars of the future, with a decidedly classic recipe that recalls vintage British roadsters. The car itself is a fully functional prototype, rather than some static concept made out of plastics and meant to look convincing on the floor of an auto show. It’s powered by two 44-kWh batteries, with one positioned in the front and one just behind the passenger compartment for effective weight distribution. The motor is positioned up front as well, but the car is rear-wheel drive in a nod to the classic formula being reinterpreted here.
The interior appears production-ready as well, featuring a 10-inch vertical infotainment screen, as well as a 5-inch self-leveling display positioned in the center of the steering wheel itself and housing instrument readouts. It remains upright even as the driver turns the wheel. That’s something we hadn’t really seen before on such a scale in production cars, as airbag requirements tend to discourage such designs, but smaller screens have appeared along the edges of the hub in some models.
“We know there’s huge potential for HMI (human-machine interface) systems to better connect the driver with the vehicle and their surroundings in the future,” said Chris Tingley, CTO of the company responsible for the HMI system. “Until now, many HMI programs, software, hardware, and user experience have been developed separately. We believe our approach of developing them as one element is a major steppingstone towards vehicles of the future.”
It’s also difficult to ignore other unorthodox design touches, such as the lack of a windshield, and a wing integrated into the top of the hood. Quite a lot has gone into maximizing the car’s range, promised to be 400 miles, with Potenza low-rolling-resistance tires wrapped around aerodynamic wheels and enclosed rear wheel arches for extra efficiency. Astheimer Design is responsible for the shape of the Aura, which was optimized for drag reduction, while Spark EV Technology engineered the battery management system of the prototype, being able to estimate available range to within 0.5%. Meanwhile, Conjure developed the steering wheel display, which uses the Android operating system.
“To successfully introduce electric vehicles to the masses, we need to make sure they provide drivers with the correct information on how far they can travel on a single charge and eliminate range and charge point anxiety,” said Justin Ott, CEO and founder of Spark EV Technology.
“The Aura project has enabled leaders in their respective fields to work together to build a working demonstrator to showcase to the world how the industry can use technology available today to help overcome these barriers.”
But don’t get in line just yet. Like the Sony EV concept sedan, which ultimately went nowhere despite being quite complete as a car, this is a technology demonstrator, so there isn’t necessarily a business case behind it, or actual production plans. And having two 44-kWh batteries on board sounds pretty expensive, both in terms of price and weight.
The Aura is more an exercise in aerodynamic efficiency and maximizing range, if not an example of the most efficient or consumer-friendly packaging out there.
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