As is often the way with emerging technologies, electric car charging is currently a fragmented experience for those wanting to charge away from home. There are multiple providers, multiple standards of sockets, multiple charging rates and much more to contend with.
If you wanted to drive across the UK or Europe in your EV, you'd have to deal with all these of issues - membership or subscriptions to different schemes, different methods of payment with cards, tags or apps, and encountering different connections when you get to the charger.
We're in a state of charging anxiety, which Audi wants to address with the launch of the e-tron SUV. One initiative to do this is with the Audi e-tron Charging Service.
What is the Audi e-tron Charging Service?
Audi's proposal is for a Europe-wide scheme to enable access to all the electric car charging points in Europe, meaning Audi drivers don't have to install a whole range of apps or take out lots of subscriptions - it can all be managed through the Audio e-tron Charging Service.
The idea is that Audi drivers can have their one card for the Charging Service and manage the whole thing through one Audi app, so they can relax knowing that they can drive up to a public charging point in their home country or abroad and charge without hassle.
Audi says that this will give access to over 200 charging operators in 16 countries, with 65,000+ charging points up to 50kW (a mixture of AC and DC). This will also include access to 2000+ 350kW charging points in the future, from the Audi-backed Ionity scheme, although those will initially be offering 150kW charging, as supported by the Audi e-tron.
In 2019 a Plug & Charge scheme will remove the need for the app or card at the point of recharging, because there will be a secure digital authentication between the charging point and the vehicle for a seamless experience.
What will the Audi e-tron Charging Service cost?
This we currently don't know, except that the first year's subscription will be free.
Audi has said it is in negotiation with the major providers - so in the UK that's likely to be Chargemaster for the Polar Network for example. Audi says that the proprietary scheme will provide access to approximately 80 per cent of the available public charging points.
Payments, naturally, will be handled through Audi's service as a single-point cash-free service, but what it will cost to be a member of Audi's scheme, whether there will be connection charges or variable rates on the power used, remains to be seen.
We suspect that this sort of universal charging aggregation service will become more common as big manufacturers (like the VW group) roll out more mass market electric cars.
What charging standards is Audi supporting?
Audi is a supporting partner of the Ionity network and is pushing the CCS standard of connector for DC charging, with the common type 2 charger for AC charging. We suspect this will become the European standard. Audi is not supporting CHAdeMO and it won't be included on Audi's production cars.
In terms of charging rates, Audi is going to be supporting 150kW DC charging (0-80 per cent in 30mins) and 11kW AC charging (8.5hrs at home), with the option of boosting this to 22kW (thus reducing the charge time). However, Audi's home charging devices want a 400V industrial socket to connect to, rather than proposing a wall-mounted charging box.