Driving range is a major concern for owners of electric cars and motorists who are considering one. But according to the folks at Audi, it shouldn’t always be just about the distance a battery-electric vehicle can travel between recharges. How quickly one can be juiced up is important, too.
Compared to other electric vehicles, the four-ring brand’scrossover does not offer the most driving range. In America, both the standard version and its more rakish sibling feature a lithium-ion battery back with a gross capacity of 95 kilowatt hours. This provides an EPA-estimated driving range of 204 miles in the regular E-Tron and 14 more in the Sportback. These figures are certainly usable, but they’re far behind the 316 miles you get in a long-range or even a Jaguar I-Pace, which can go an estimated 234 miles between recharges.
In Europe, this version of the vehicle is called the E-Tron 55, though E-Tron 50 models are also offered. The 50 has a smaller battery pack, which provides shorter range, reduced performance and a commensurately lower price tag. Currently, there are no plans to offer any E-Tron 50 variants in the US, Audi told Roadshow in a web conference this week.
Setting these Audis apart from other electric vehicles is how quickly their driving range can be replenished. When hooked to a high-power charging terminal delivering 150 kW of direct current, E-Tron 55 models can go from a 5% state of charge to full in about 45 minutes. They can absorb around 110 kilometers (68 miles) of range on the WLTP cycle after a mere 10 minutes of charging. Pull off the highway to grab a cup of coffee and you can be ready to hit the road again before your double shot of espresso has even cooled down enough to sip. More affordable E-Tron 50 variants can only charge at a rate of up to 120 kW, but their charging curve is very similar to the 55 model’s which, because of the smaller battery pack, means overall charging times are very similar.
Audi engineers have managed to broaden the charging curve of E-Tron models. This allows them to recharge at their peak rate for longer periods, which reduces overall recharge times. By comparison, rival electric vehicles tend to hit their peak charging rate for only a short period before throttling back. If temperatures aren’t too extreme, Audi’s models can sustain this rate between a 5% state of charge and around 70%.
Compared to the E-Tron,utility vehicle can go from empty to an 80% state of charge in a claimed 40 minutes when hooked to a DC fast charger. The can gain 100 miles of range in 30 minutes when hooked to the same sort of charger.
What’s Audi’s secret? In short, careful thermal management. The E-Tron’s liquid-cooled battery pack can be maintained at between 77 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit for optimum recharging. Achieving this, some 5.8 gallons of coolant are circulated through about 131 feet of cooling lines. This helps keep the battery in its happy place, even after a hard workout or in extreme temperatures.
Ensuring the transfer of excess heat from battery cells to the coolant, a special thermally conductive adhesive gel attaches the discrete cooling unit to the battery housing. Keeping these major components separate provides an additional benefit: greater safety in crashes.
In normal use, rapid charging is not very critical, since an EV might spend all day plugged in at home or work, where it can slowly absorb energy throughout the day. Fast charging is critically important, however, on long-distance drives where you don’t want to wait around for hours as your electric car “refuels.”
They may not offer the most driving range, but there are still plenty of reasons to consider an E-Tron crossover, from their handsome good looks to the advanced technology they offer. Another is the protection Audi provides. The E-Tron’s battery pack comes with an 8-year/100,000-mile warranty, one that guarantees it will maintain at least 70% of its charge capacity.