Audi's e-tron Charging Services' new scheme allows owners of plug-in Audi models to plug and pay at hundreds of locations around the UK with a single tap of a card. Members of e-tron Charging Services (yes, you do still need to subscribe) will get an RFID (radio-frequency identification) card which is linked to their account. Like tap and pay using a debit or credit card, members simply need plug and tap to get the electricity flowing, with charges deducted automatically from a user's account.
The network that the e-tron Charging Service system will grant access to is sizeable enough to be a real boon for Audi drivers. It covers 18 of the biggest chargepoint suppliers including IONITY, Pod Point, Source London and Instavolt. European charging networks are also covered by the scheme, with 134,000 charging stations across 24 countries available via free roaming. Luckily, if participants forget their RFID card, the myAudi app can still grant access to many of the chargers included in the scheme.
Audi is offering two tariffs to users; City and Transit. The former is designed for people who predominantly charge at home and cover shorter distances – plug-in hybrid owners being the target audience. For £4.95 per month, on the City tariff users will pay 30p/kWh for standard AC charging and 39p/kWh for DC fast-charging. Source London gets separate pricing with 7.4kW AC charging rated at 8p/minute and 22kW at 14p/minute.
The Transit tariff is aimed more at pure EV e-tron drivers who are covering longer distances and want to juice quickly. Given the Audi e-tron's 150kW capability and the inclusion of IONITY in the scheme, it's a good marriage. Users will need to stump up £16.95 per month and, at a 150kW IONITY ultra-fast charger will pay 28p/kWh (a 60 per cent saving on a standard IONITY tariff) – which isn't super cheap, but is still considerably cheaper than filling up with diesel.
Luckily for new buyers of the Audi e-tron, they'll get the Transit tariff thrown in for free for the first 12 months. And even sweeter for those shelling out for Transit, they'll benefit from the same pricing structure as the City tariff when using relevant chargers.
Hardly revolutionary in the scheme of 'paying for goods and services', in the EV world Audi's stripping back of the layers of complexity around charging is actually quite a rare thing. Andrew Doyle, Director of Audi UK, said: “The general perception of EV charging is that it is confusing and inconvenient, and we want to help to gradually dispel that belief. We started by equipping the e-tron with the potential for fast charging at up to 150kW, and are now removing another layer of complexity for our EV owners by streamlining the end-to-end process, from charging activation to invoicing, with this new service.”
Ultimately, what Audi is doing is fulfilling a customer demand by simplifying things, however there will still be thousands of charge points around the UK that subscribers won't be able to use so easily. The system remains far from perfect, regardless of the brand of EV, unfortunately.
Over on the continent Renault has launched what it calls the INCIT-EV project, through which it will explore new ways of charging, new types of infrastructure and new charging ecosystems. Taking place over four years, it will initially look at what EV owners require from charging, the technology available and how it can be integrated into infrastructure.
The second part of INCIT-EV is through seven tech demonstrations at sites across Europe which will assess the usability and feasibility of each. These tech demonstrations are:
Part-funded by the European Commission, Renault's aim is to explore – among other things – contactless dynamic charging, similar to the wireless induction charging pilots that are (slowly) popping up over here. Ultimately, Renault wants to work out what is useful for EV owners, and what charging tech is just an over-complicated fad, in order to set out a realistic EV ecosystem for the future.
It sounds complex and full of buzzwords, but underneath all of that this real-world testing is necessary so that down the line EVs are integrated into our daily lives in as seamless a way as possible.