Originally seen on Audi.com, courtesy of Audi Germany® and Audi Life.
The future of mobility consists of various building blocks. One of them is electric mobility—an area of growing importance to Audi, and one that will remain in the spotlight in the years to come. The driving force behind this is our vision of fully electric-powered production models. One such model has already advanced beyond the conceptual design phase. Jens van Eikels, head of model lines within the four rings’ all-electric microcosm, knows every phase of the road map. In this interview he talks about the state of play on the project.
Mr. van Eikels, in the coming year, Audi is putting an all-electric model into production. What significance does this hold for you?
Jens van Eikels: “For me, this project is ‘the next big thing,’ because it signals that Audi has carved a path to new kinds of drive systems. In the process, Audi takes its brand’s selling points, such as excitement, Vorsprung durch Technik, and premium quality, to new heights. In a nutshell: e-tron® will combine comfort and driving performance with a form of sustainable mobility. For me, this ‘next big thing’ is the mainspring—the leap into tomorrow’s mobility.”
What spurs you on personally?
“I’d say pretty much the same things. Our current project represents the next milestone in the four rings’ all-electric evolution. In terms of performance, driving experience, as well as our vision regarding sustainability, this model takes things to the next level. Conquering new terrain as we work toward these goals is very exciting—even if it admittedly sometimes presents a challenge. But that’s exactly why it’s so appealing.”
The pieces needed for series production are starting to fall into place. Are you happy with progress on the project?
“I’m thrilled. Everyone is fully committed to working flat out and bringing all their expertise to bear on the project. The prototypes are already well-advanced and are delivering impressive results, including during test-drives. Plus, the factory conversions in Brussels are progressing right on schedule. I’m highly optimistic that we will achieve our goals or even exceed them.”
When you compare electric motors to combustion engines, what is the appeal of an electric drive?
“Customers basically want exactly the same things from an all-electric car—except that it has to be better. The drive system in particular plays a key role. An electric drive has clear advantages—maximum torque from the moment it pulls away, no jerky gear changes, exceptional efficiency and, on top of all that, it’s virtually silent. All of which adds up to a driving experience which seems strange at first, but quickly proves intensely compelling. Also worth mentioning is the recuperation, which can help to reduce energy consumption in both full-electric and hybrid models. Thanks to a new fully electric brake booster, the electric motor’s drive management system can harness deceleration of up to 3 meters per second squared so that virtually all of the kinetic energy produced during braking is fed back into the system for reuse in acceleration. Essentially, that’s ‘braking 2.0.’ This aspect definitely holds a fascination for me, because it makes every traffic light that turns red look a lot better.”
Let’s move away from the car for a moment and consider another factor which, together with range, is critical to electric mobility: charging infrastructure. There’s a lot of skepticism surrounding this issue. How can we move forward on this in the coming years?
“We need to differentiate between three kinds of charging. Firstly, there’s charging at home. This is where over 80% of charging is currently done. Destination charging—using public charging stations in urban areas or at the workplace—accounts for the remainder. However, there’s a third variant that’s also crucial, especially to the acceptance of electric vehicles, which is high-power charging on long journeys. That is why we are also making a big push toward establishing ultra-fast charging facilities on motorways and expressways, so our customers are assured of unimpeded long-distance mobility. This is not a challenge we are facing alone. We’re working hand in hand with other car manufacturers to tackle it.”
That sounds like a major undertaking...
“Absolutely. Of course, thousands of charging stations aren’t just going to spring up out of the ground in no time at all. Naturally, we’ll have a plan with phases that will be implemented incrementally. By the time of the all-electric model’s market launch, we will have installed appropriate numbers of charging stations on the major road networks. The plan is then for the consortium to successively expand the network.”
Lastly, let’s peer into our crystal ball. What does the future of electric mobility look like at Audi?
“In the coming years, the company’s focus will not only be on electric mobility, but also on driver assistance systems, machine learning and digitalization. This will be reflected in the brand’s new models, all of which will align with this structure. Anyone who wants a glimpse of the all-electric future at Audi should take a look at the Audi e-tron quattro® concept and Audi e-tron Sportback concept. Tomorrow’s mobility is, and remains, an exciting field.”
The Volkswagen Group, including Audi and Porsche, together with the BMW Group, Daimler AG and Ford Motor Company, are planning a joint venture with a view to creating the highest-powered charging network for electric vehicles in Europe.
The goal: to enhance the viability of long-distance travel. In the first few years, the consortium’s target is to equip up to 400 locations with ultra-fast charging stations based on the Combined Charging System (CCS) standard. With power levels of up to 350 kilowatts, the infrastructure will not only significantly speed up the charging process, but also be future-proof.