In the rollout of the 2019 E-tron quattro SUV, Audi is making the claim that rated range might not be the most important thing on a road trip.
The E-tron is rated at just 204 miles of estimated range, so the German automaker has some steep ground to gain versus Tesla. But it's made a case that consistency of real-world range and fast charging rates through an entire charge can make up for that.
On a recent drive from California's wine country up past 7,000 feet to Lake Tahoe in the E-tron quattro, it indeed showed pretty consistent range estimates and charged quickly on one of Electrify America's new 150-kilowatt fast chargers, owned by Audi's parent company Volkswagen.
A number of our commenters, many of whom own Teslas, howled that it wasn't enough—there's no substitute for range, and the route and the charger were chosen specifically to highlight the Audi's strengths. (Since Audi arranged the trip, this is a fair concern.)
So we wondered what our EV-driving audience thought is the most important thing when charging.
What matters most when fast-charging an electric car on a road trip?— Green Car Reports (@GreenCarReports) May 27, 2019
Our Twitter poll question for this week asks: "What matters most when fast-charging an electric car on a road trip?"
Among the suggestions in our comments was the idea that the number of miles of range gained per minute of charging is more important than the maximum charge-rate in kilowatts. This benefits Teslas, which have higher ratings in miles per kilowatt-hour than the E-tron (or almost any other electric car.) In other words, it doesn't matter how much juice it can take on in a given time frame, but how quickly you can get a certain number of miles back in. Total range gained per minute is the first option in our poll.
Another suggestion from our commenters was that it doesn't matter as much what percent of charge you can get in 30 minutes, for example, but how long it takes to actually fill the battery. DC fast charging generally slows around 80 percent (known as the "taper,") so it takes much longer to charge an electric car to full than it does to 80 percent. Some commenters said that's the time that's more important on a road trip, especially in a car that depends on DC fast chargers that are spaced more sporadically than Superchargers (or if you'll only need to stop once, for a weekend trip, for instance). Our second option is total time to full.
Cars queuing for DC fast charging - Ståle Frydelund/Norwegian EV Association
Tesla developed its Supercharger network around road trips with earlier versions of the Tesla Model S that didn't have the range that the best Teslas do today. Since then, it has expanded to offer six or seven different routes across the U.S. that a 220-mile Tesla can manage. Some have called it Tesla's "moat" against competition from other electric automakers. Other cars use different kinds of fast chargers, supplied by a variety of not-always-coordinated networks. Many operate regionally, and none offers the comprehensive density along Interstates that Superchargers do. More stations is our third poll option.
While many of these networks are beginning to work together (or at least working with third parties such as Hubject) to use the same standards to initiate charging and payments, these efforts are in their infancy. Many electric-car analysts have pointed to these discrepancies (and the fact that they have taken so long to work together) as a primary obstacle to getting more electric cars on the road. Our final option (we only get four) is a more seamless interface, such as the one-step Plug&Charge some of the larger networks are beginning to roll out.
Clearly, all of these things would be nice: one-step charging in more locations that takes less time and delivers more miles. (Wait, that's starting to sound like Tesla Superchargers.) We asked which is most important, so you can only choose one.
Let us know what you think, and remember that our Twitter polls are unscientific because of low sample size and because our readers are self-selected. In particular, this poll is not designed to show what would scientifically provide the most effective fast charge experience, only what our readers might find most satisfying.