Ready to go the distance

Electric drives are a key component of tomorrow’s mobility solutions—which also raises the question of charging options. In the future, fast charging on long journeys will play a decisive role.

Birte Mußmann (copy) & shutterstock (photo)

Charging and the infrastructure required to support it rank among the most important issues for electric mobility. At present, the electric car owner’s home and workplace take precedence as the primary locations for charging. But public charging stations—in the inner city and, looking ahead, on long-distance routes—are increasingly moving into the spotlight. This development is very much in step with the technology’s advances. After all, batteries are now powerful enough to let vehicles operate on electricity alone over long distances. Due for premiere over the course of this year, the first all-electric production model to come from the Audi stable, for instance, will have a range of up to 500 kilometers.

Audi is aware of the demands placed on charging infrastructure, which is why the company is also actively contributing to shaping this aspect of tomorrow’s mobility. To this end, the four rings have joined forces with other major carmakers. In winter 2017, the Volkswagen Group together with Audi, the BMW Group, Daimler AG as well as the Ford Motor Company established a joint venture. Created by this consortium, Ionity GmbH aims to expand charging infrastructure for electric vehicles on long journeys in the coming years. The target is 400 fast-charging points along Europe’s main arteries by 2020 to facilitate high-power charging (HPC). “We know from customer studies that, without functional and reliable fast-charging infrastructure for long-distance travel, the willingness to purchase an all-electric car wanes significantly. Audi recognized this challenge early on. This is why we joined with various car manufacturers in initiating a cooperation project to ensure that a network of fast-charging stations is established in Europe,” explains Anno Mertens, project director for charging infrastructure at Audi.

The network of HPC stations will comply with the European Combined Charging System (CCS) standard. Its compatibility with current and future vehicle generations makes this a key requirement for electric mobility’s market penetration. Since the charging points each have a capacity of up to 350 kilowatts, appropriately configured vehicles will be able to recharge in a much shorter time than is possible with the systems available today. This reduction in charging time is one of the requirements for long-distance travel with electric vehicles. Ideally, it will be possible in the future to complete the charging process in a short period. “With charging times under half an hour—and set to drop for future vehicle generations—providing a range of some 400 kilometers, the goal of recharging during a coffee break is within reach,” adds the project director.

Together with the relevant cooperation partners, the company is already setting up the first 20 locations in more than ten countries, including Austria, Denmark, Germany and Norway. In Denmark, for instance, the first station is in pilot operation at the E45 in Aabenraa.