Audi Says To Drive ICE If You Don’t Like Poor Charging Networks

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With the possible exception of range, charging is likely one of the most important aspects of EV ownership. The good news? Most of that happens at home and doesn’t take up any of your valuable time. It takes a few seconds to plug in, and then you go in and enjoy the evening before you go to bed. Long hours of charging on a 240-volt circuit might sound like a long time, but it’s literally like a pleasant dream to let the car charge while you recharge in bed.

This doesn’t solve everything, obviously. People without the means or a location to install a home charger can still get left out in the cold during the EV revolution, and you’ll want to charge away from home if you go further than around half of your EV’s range away (you’ll need the second half of the battery to get back).

So, public EV charging is still an essential feature of the industry, even if many of us don’t use it that often!

Unfortunately, Audi’s representatives recently managed to fully insert a foot in their proverbial mouths when journalists working for Motor Authority and other outlets asked too many gosh-darned hard questions about public charging. In an epic “let them eat cake” moment, the company let what could be VW Group’s mask slip a lot further than they should have:

“When a pair of EV reporters asked Audi executives how it planned to compete with Tesla’s Supercharging advantage at the drive program, they pointed to the two years of unlimited free fast charging on the fast-expanding Electrify America network that comes with any Q8 E-Tron. Questioned in detail about that network’s rising unreliability, with more than one in five charging attempts unable to complete as measured by JD Power in a March 2023 report, the execs suggested Audi’s EV owners will do the bulk of their charging at home.”

That’s true, but it misses the point. A Tesla SUV can do a long road trip without the driver having to worry that a scheduled charging stop will land them at chargers that are dead, damaged, under repair, or downrated. Audi EV owners do not presently have that confidence.

Audi’s response? “Our buyers have multiple vehicles, so they can always choose to use a gasoline model for those occasional long trips. They’ll enjoy an excellent electric car for daily use.”

Let’s Unpack This A Little Further

EV enthusiasts are already taking to social media to share this bad take on Audi’s part far and wide, and for good reason. The idea that the buyer of an expensive EV can just own a second vehicle that runs on gas or diesel is kind of insane.

As I pointed out, this is a modern iteration of “let them eat cake,” as Audi just expects you to own a second car for road trips. And when the ICE car needs an oil change? Just have the butler take it down to the dealer, right? Have the maid vacuum the car out while we’re at it, and be sure to get the nanny home by 7.

In other words, an Audi isn’t a car you should buy for an EV if you only plan on having one car. Ouch! But, it’s really worse if you look at the whole quote, because this wasn’t the first attempt to dodge the journalists’ questions. They first threw the red herring of free charging out, as if free charging that’s less reliable at fewer geographical locations can be compensated for by throwing money at it like life’s just a balance sheet and your time is worth nothing.

When pressed, they tried to point out that most charging happens at home, but once again, that’s a dodge. Yes, it’s true that more than 90% of charging happens at home, but people buying an Audi EV don’t want to buy 90% of a car. They want the whole car, to drive to all of the places they’d like to drive a car to.

So, the deeper problem is that Audi (which is part of the same VW Group as Electrify America) is full of excuses, dodges, and red herrings instead of answers, and the final answer is that you’re probably not rich enough to take a road trip in an Audi EV.

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How Audi Should Have Handled This

The worst part of all this is that they didn’t have to play these stupid games with the journalists they invited to a test drive event, because simply telling the truth would have been good enough.

The biggest truth they could have told is that Electrify America and other CCS charging stations do have reliability problems, but that these problems have been exaggerated heavily. Does it suck to have to plug an EV in twice at a station? Absolutely, especially when it’s cold, rainy, or roasting hot outside! But, you’ll still get a charge and get to your destination. Getting stranded at an Electrify America station does happen, but it’s far more rare than a failed charge attempt that can be solved by replugging it a couple of times.

They also could have pointed out that not only VW Group, but other manufacturers, retailers, governments, and independent charging companies like EVgo and ChargePoint are all working to expand and improve the reliability of EV charging.

They’d only need to point journalists to Plugshare to look at all of the “coming soon” stations listed on the map, and then point out that there are many more stations coming beyond those in the next 2-5 years. That would answer the first half of the question.

They could have also pointed out that Electrify America is working to replace existing unreliable chargers with better next-generation units, and that the company has joined the ChargeX Consortium to work with other industry and government players to help improve everybody’s reliability.

VW Group and Electrify America still needs to put their money where that mouth would be, but that would have been a much better answer than “just drive a gas car.”

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Jennifer Sensiba

Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to get off the beaten path in her "Bolt EAV" and any other EVs she can get behind the wheel or handlebars of with her wife and kids. You can find her on Twitter here, Facebook here, and YouTube here.

Jennifer Sensiba has 2018 posts and counting. See all posts by Jennifer Sensiba