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Audi e-tron is coming, but how will we charge it?


The battle between charging networks is like the Beta versus VHS war all over again – and only one side can win.

It’s all very nice that companies like Audi, VW, Mercedes-Benz and Renault are all talking up their respective electric car futures, but the problem remains… how do we, the paying punter, charge them up?

In Australia, public charging stations – excluding Tesla’s standalone system – are few and far between. Most large provincial cities will be lucky to have five to ten at present, smaller country centres may have none at all, while even finding a spot away from your home socket in our capitals isn’t the work of a moment.

Part of the reason for the lack of infrastructure is that it’s too easy to invest in the wrong kind of technology. If you count Tesla – which has always electronically locked out other car brands from its bespoke network – there are two systems currently vying for superiority.

The Combined Charging System (CCS) is backed by Europe, as well as companies like BMW, Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler, Ford and the Volkswagen group.

CHAdeMO (Charge de Move), meanwhile, is being developed by Japanese firms like Nissan and Mitsubishi.

Of relevance to large carmakers, too, is the fact that China is backing its own system (known as GB/T), which is nothing like CHAdeMO or CCS.

Each system has its pros and cons; CCS, for example, will allow drivers to recharge at more stations because it allows both AC and DC charging, while CHAdeMO enables owners to sell back energy from the car battery to the power grid.

CHAdeMO leads the race currently with more than 16,000 chargers worldwide, versus CCS’s Europe-centric 7000 or so outets. There are a similar number of Tesla chargers around the world, while there are nearly 130,000 GB/T chargers in China.

In Australia there are 43 CCS sites in the ACT, NSW, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia, and a similar spread of CHAdeMO chargers, according to the comprehensive charging site mapping website plugshare.com.

All systems use different plugs and electronic ‘signatures’ to charge their respective cars, and cars like the e-tron are currently being built with two styles of charging plug receiver to try and future-proof it.

Audi Australia will partner with local firm Jet Charge, according to managing director Paul Sansom, with more information to come out before the e-tron touches down here in mid-2019.

“That's going to be a great, convenient, and affordable solution that can be stuck up on the garage wall; just drive the car in, plug in, charge overnight,” he said at the e-tron reveal event this week.

“From a network, that's something that we're in collaboration with government, industry, private investment, we're collaborating with other OEMs as well as our group and again we are confident that we will have a solution we'll be able to announce in the coming months.”

How ‘economy’ is relayed to customers is also a current discussion point.

“As an industry the conversation will eventually turn to something like (cost per kilometre) rather than litres per hundred,” he said. “There's different variables in the range but in terms of the cost per kilometre, and I think that's why it's great that the industry's collaborating so well because that'll be the same (outcome).”

Audi is part of the Australian-based Electric Vehicle Panel group, which includes companies like Jaguar-Land Rover, Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Nissan.

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