Audi e-tron an der Ladesäule

Charging made easy

How Audi makes charging electric cars practical for everyday life

Everyone is racking their brains about the everyday practicality of electric cars. How we travel electrically while still staying flexible and spontaneous. When we plug our car into the electrical outlet, and what happens when none are in range. And who installs a “gas station” for us in our own garage. Blogger Jan Weizenecker takes a closer look at the problem-solving approach that Audi takes...

Audi e-tron-Prototyp Charging
The Audi e-tron Charging Service is part of a broad-based offering for charging and offers access to public charging infrastructure across Europe. Jan Weizenecker took a first look at the problem-solving approach that Audi takes.

Who hasn’t had it happen? The smartphone battery is almost dead, and there’s no charging cable in sight. Panic! How unnecessary, I always think – our world is overflowing with energy: the power of raging rivers, the ocean, the wind, or the sun. It sounds so esoteric, but anyone who has lain in the sun for too long or seen lightning strike with their own eyes knows what I mean.

The question is, how do we capture all this ominous energy? And how can we store it to make it available for use wherever it is needed? And how can we do that under the premise that our children, and their children, should get to enjoy the greenest “blue planet” possible?

Storing energy from the environment

In the future, the civilized nations of the world will be confronted by this task to an ever-greater extent. Right now, we are still primarily using fossil fuels like coal or petroleum to produce energy. But these resources are finite. Batteries could be the solution, but their size is currently limited due to shortages of the resources used in their production, which makes them expensive. Another point of difficulty in solving this equation is the time factor. Charging a battery takes a relatively long time.

But why this introduction? From a person who wants to make the world a better place, but is too fond of driving cars and collecting frequent flier miles like postage stamps? Riiiiight: it’s about cars. Specifically, about the new Audi e-tron prototype. Because, in September of this year, Audi will proudly present its first electric model.

Audi e-tron Stromschlag auf Auto

This experiment is a symbol for a dream that has been around for more than one millennium: catching lightning and using its energy.

The Audi e-tron prototype meets high voltage

Charging capacity was one of the main points of focus during development. At this point, I would like to send my humble thanks to my physics teacher: you were right; I really should have paid more attention. Since physics failures are destined to make up for it at some point in real life, the Ingolstadt team invited me to the hallowed halls of the Siemens “Schaltwerk” (switchgear factory) in Berlin. The goal was clear: to graphically demonstrate that the new electric SUV can be charged during a coffee break.

For technology nerds, the Schaltwerk in Berlin is a source of more high-voltage excitement than an AC/DC concert. Because here, switching technology for consumers all over the world is developed and tested in a high-voltage testing facility. But today we have something else on the agenda – a bolt of lightning is discharged onto the Audi e-tron prototype before my very eyes. Impressive. And, theoretically, completely harmless for the occupants; as we know, a car serves as a Faraday cage.

Range – further than people think

But charging an electric car at the speed of lightning is, unfortunately, still a long way off. Which brings us back to the initial problem: storing energy. I’ll put things in more practical terms. When developing the e-tron prototype, Audi decided on three success factors for electric mobility: the range, the charging time, and the charging infrastructure.

This should lead us directly to the actual protagonist of this article: the battery. A flat, 700 KG block, it sits deep in the bottom of the car between the two axels. It is made up of 36 cell modules the size of shoe boxes, each of which houses twelve “pouch” cells. That gives the e-tron prototype a capacity of 95 kWh, which, according to the realistic WLTP test cycle, promises a range of over 400 kilometers.

Rekuperationstest Audi e-tron-Prototyp am Pikes Peak
The Audi e-tron prototype during its recuperation test at Pikes Peak in Colorado.

To guarantee this regardless of environmental conditions, the car is equipped with an intelligent thermal management system that keeps temperatures near the battery cozy at all times. Thanks to this system, the battery promises consistently predictable capacity, whether it’s dealing with a cold start in freezing winter temperatures or blazingly hot summer highway trips with a lead foot on the accelerator.

Charging time – plugging in the e-tron prototype

But even the high-capacity battery runs out at some point, which makes the 150 kilowatts charging capacity at quick-charging stations at least as important for the new model’s everyday practicality. How does it work? The Ingolstadt team makes use of the European CCS charging standard. Some of you are probably saying: “Well that’s about as clear as mud. What about charging electric cars?”

Audi e-tron an der Ladestation

Audi has put an end to fears over the car’s range. A key factor, aside from a range suitable for everyday driving, is a broad-based choice of charging options, whether at home or out and about.

A gas-burner can be filled up in about seven minutes, including a bathroom break, at one of 14,000 gas stations in Germany. But it’s a little more complicated with electric mobility. The first deciding question is what is the user’s living situation? Statistically seen, 85% of all charging operations so far take place at home. A trusted Audi dealer can even recommend specially trained electricians who can install optimal solutions in home garages.

Charging infrastructure – charging on every corner

But once in a while we have to make longer trips – either for work, or to visit Grandma in another city. That makes quick-charging options along the highway essential.

Audi e-tron-Prototyp wird geladen
With its new charging service, Audi offers all e-tron customers – and owners of plug-in models – access to approximately 80 percent of all public charging stations in Europe.

So far, though, these only make up five to ten percent of all charging operations. With a 50-kW charging station, the e-Audi charges in 80 minutes. Way too long. With a 100 to 120 kW charging column, it’s only 40 minutes. Boring! Audi uses a charging capacity of up to 150 kW – which means that the battery is ready for the next leg of the journey in only 30 minutes or so. That’s far more manageable, and would be equivalent to a coffee break. Okay… with cake. And then there’s another topic to lose sleep over. There are, in fact, already over 80,000 charging points in Europe—but they are from 1,000 different operators, all with a different app or different payment systems.

Audi is implementing its own charging service: the “Audi e-tron Charging Service.” A customer account should make it possible to use 80 percent of the public charging points in Europe with automatic payment. It currently requires a card, but starting in 2019 the car should independently connect with the charging column.

Conclusion: where electric mobility aims to go

With its long range and quick charging capacity, the e-tron prototype is no longer the relegated to the status of “second car” – it is ready to take its place in the spotlight as “main car,” and it brings along important features with it for which many consumers have waited. And the Audi e-tron prototype is only the first model in a larger e-offensive by the Ingolstadt team. An e-tron sportback with a hatchback is planned for 2019, so the future will be filled with even more high-voltage excitement – in the truest sense of the word.

And if inductive charging – like we have for smartphones – becomes available as a comfort feature for home use, then we will truly have arrived in the future. And maybe someone will soon have the idea to charge our smartphones with more power. I shudder at the thought of the small talk: “And how fast does your iPhone charge?” “With 150 kilowatts – I’m good to go. And you?” Just a quick coffee break, and then I can get back to Tindering or making myself jealous looking at other people’s vacations on Instagram.

Mobility without borders: the Audi e-tron prototype

Due to the integration of the fast-charging network Ionity, the Audi e-tron prototype is the first series car to charge with a capacity of up to 150 kW. More than 72,000 charging points from 220 providers enable unlimited and carefree electric mobility.

While the Audi e-tron prototype cannot be charged with lightning, the engineers have come one step closer to charging in a flash. The series version of the Audi e-tron prototype is the first automobile on the market that charges with a capacity of up to 150 kW.
By charging the e-tron during the night and starting with a full battery in the morning, there is no need to stop at a charging station during your daily drive.
When connected to the high-output DC charging stations, the Audi e-tron is the first series-production model capable of charging with up to 150 kW. It is ready for the next long haul in just under half an hour.
The Audi e-tron prototype offers double efficiency. On the one hand, the battery charges self-controlled thanks to recuperation. On the other hand, the technology preserves the brakes and enables a high safety level.
The charging process is easy: Whether you charge your car at AC or DC pillars and with a charging capacity of 11 or 150 kW – you only need the e-tron Charging Service Card to start charging up.

While the Audi e-tron prototype cannot be charged with lightning, the engineers have come one step closer to charging in a flash. The series version of the Audi e-tron prototype is the first automobile on the market that charges with a capacity of up to 150 kW.

1/5

By charging the e-tron during the night and starting with a full battery in the morning, there is no need to stop at a charging station during your daily drive.

2/5

When connected to the high-output DC charging stations, the Audi e-tron is the first series-production model capable of charging with up to 150 kW. It is ready for the next long haul in just under half an hour.

3/5

The Audi e-tron prototype offers double efficiency. On the one hand, the battery charges self-controlled thanks to recuperation. On the other hand, the technology preserves the brakes and enables a high safety level.

4/5

The charging process is easy: Whether you charge your car at AC or DC pillars and with a charging capacity of 11 or 150 kW – you only need the e-tron Charging Service Card to start charging up.

5/5
Audi e-tron prototype
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Audi e-tron prototype

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