As the automotive industry shifts to electrification and the EV market continues to grow at an increasingly rapid pace, concerns around charging infrastructure are rising. To that end, the Audi brand, which plans to quadruple its global lineup of electric models to 20 in the next four years, may have a solution that addresses the challenges of future peak demands on the power grid and long waiting times at charging stations.
The automaker’s answer to “quick-charging for premium-level electromobility” is called the Audi charging hub. Reminiscent of “2001: A Space Odyssey,” the concept calls for high-power charging (HPC) stations that come in the form of black, almost featureless cubes. Inside the monolith-like structures are charging pillars and used lithium-ion batteries for energy storage and distribution. The battery cells come from Audi’s pool of disassembled development vehicles.
Not only does the Audi charging hub concept give second-use batteries a new and sustainable purpose, but it also utilizes their suitability for storing direct current (DC). The benefit to this is it makes complex charging infrastructure with high-voltage lines and expensive transformers unnecessary. Energy for the charging hub is drawn from the power grid at night when demand is at its lowest or from roof-mounted solar panels during the day. In both cases, the real-time burden to the electric grid is minimal or non-existent.
The charging hub consists of six charging stations totaling 2.45 Mwh of energy and charging output up to 300 kW. Each station utilizes a standard 400-volt connector. This setup can charge the Audi E-Tron GT, the brand’s newest electric model with a charging capacity of 270 kW, from five to 80 percent in under 23 minutes.
“The charging hub embodies our aspiration for the electric era and highlights Audi’s commitment to ‘Vorsprung durch Technik,’” said Oliver Hoffman, Member of the Board for Technical Development of Audi AG. ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’ translates into English as ‘Progress through Technology.’
In addition to fast-charging capabilities, the charging hub concept will allow Audi owners to make reservations to minimize waiting times and allow better trip planning. And to make the short wait a premium experience, an upstairs lounge area will offer snacks, beverages, and a comfortable seating area to take a break.
Audi will run a pilot program of the charging hub concept for its EV owners at a single site in Germany during the second half of 2021. The charging hub maximizes scalability through the use of modular blocks and it can be adapted to an individual location quickly due to being largely independent of local network capacities. If launched widely, the Audi charging hub will also welcome drivers of other brands’ vehicles to use open and unreserved charging stations.
Aside from Audi, other automakers across the industry realize that ease and availability of charging infrastructure are vital to encourage consumers to consider an EV purchase. Volvo’s partnership with Chargepoint to make EV ownership easier is one of many programs that may convince buyers to make the switch from the internal combustion engine to electric vehicles.