First, I want to correct an error I made in the earlier story—there were, in fact, 2 Tesla Supercharging Stations between the long stretch of highway where we were stranded—so that if we were driving a Tesla that night, things would have most likely turned out very differently. With that said, I have now owned my Audi e-Tron for 15 months and driven a total of 12k+ miles in it. In this time, I’ve gotten stranded locally once, brought the car to the dealer for recalls, taken the same exact Lake Tahoe trip again as well as a trip to San Francisco, and charged regularly at Electrify America stations. I can now offer a more complete assessment of the car and the infrastructure.
Finding Software glitches
A few months after owning the car, I experienced several issues with the car. The software for the charging module was buggy. The handshake protocol between the car and the charging station seemed to be somewhat erratic as the car failed to establish a connection with Electrify America stations at times. This proved to be a very distressing issue as I became nervous about taking the car too far, where I would need to charge to get home.
One night, all the stalls at four local Electrify America locations would not establish a connection with the car, and I had to resort to a level 2 charger, stranding me locally for 2 hours (though previously, I was on a long streak of successful connections). On another occasion, the car even failed to charge at home with the included standard Audi charger, with the charging cable stuck to the car and unable to be released through even manual override cables. The following day the connector had reset and I was able to pull the charger out.
Updating Software on the Audi e-Tron
On the first anniversary of owning the car, I drove it back to the dealer for 4 service recalls that were software related (unlike Tesla, which does software updates over the air, Audi still requires owners to bring the car in for updates). I’ve noticed many issues being resolved through these updates. The handshake protocol between Electrify America chargers and the car seems to have been fixed so that whenever I plug in the charging station acknowledges the connection. I am not sure whether it was the recall or the dealer performed some other additional repair. Since then, I have not encountered any more difficulties with connecting to chargers and am now quite pleased with the charging experience.
Road Tripping with the Audi e-Tron
In June 2022, my son and I took the same road trip to Lake Tahoe. This time, the experience was much smoother. The only inconvenience we encountered was on the first charging stop on the outskirts of Southern California (Hesperia) where half of the stalls were not functional, and we had to wait about 20 minutes for other users to finish. To avoid having to charge at unreliable stations in the middle of nowhere, I charged the car to 100% and was able to travel 220 miles to a small town called Bishop (so bypassing the stations that caused us delays the first time).
Though I was only going at the speed limit (65 mph), drafting behind trucks most of the time, I was still very impressed that I arrived with about 40 miles of range left, according to the car computer (the car was only EPA rated for 220 miles). Of note, it was a hot day with temperatures in the high 90s and we set the AC at level 3 out of 6 the whole way (which was on fairly flat terrain). Charging the car to about 80% and topping off about an hour later, we were able to arrive at our destination pretty much as planned. We were able to use the free level 2 chargers at the hotel during our stay and the return home was also relatively smooth.
Four Charging Stops over 900 Miles
This was very much in line with our road trip experience to San Francisco. As we travelled along the Interstate 5, where the charging infrastructure is more well developed, we only stopped twice to charge on the way there, and the same number of stops on the way back (a round trip journey of 900 miles). While we did have to wait for the car to charge, most of the time this did not seem to be an inconvenience at all.
Charging Away from Home
Typically, since we could drive for over 3 hours on a charge, we spent the 30-40 minute charge time to use the restroom, eat snacks/meals, and/or shop at grocery or other stores. The car always seems to finish charging before we’ve completed whatever we were doing. Increasingly, hotels now have level 2 chargers installed, though in this particular case the price was excessively high for level 2 charging ($0.45 per kWh).
In terms of charging, I think the infrastructure has been improving rapidly. For most of the time I’ve owned the car, I’ve been using the myAudi app to charge at Electrify America stations with the 1,000 free kWh included with the car purchase and have now exhausted those credits. Switching over to the Electrify America app, I am pleased with the user-friendliness of the app and the ease with which charging sessions are initiated. The standard rate in California is $0.43 per kWh as of this writing, which I think is not unreasonable (at the long-term average of 2.8 mi/kWh, my average cost per mile works out to $0.15). Though, one can purchase a monthly pass (through the app) for $4 that will bring the rate down to $0.31 per kWh.
Consider a Charging Pass
Since it was travel season for me, I purchased the monthly pass and was able to save a net of $12 on high-speed charging in one month. In addition, I’ve charged at over 20 Electrify America locations in Southern California this past year and have noticed that many of these charging stations are newly built (the one in our city was just put up in a Walmart parking lot a few months ago). I’ve also noticed a lot of new charging stations being added from time to time—though they are all starting to get busy, and stalls not working is still a common occurrence. I’ve yet to install a level 2 charger at home and have been using the standard Audi charger to trickle charge the car every night when the super off-peak rate is $0.16 per kWh or 5.7 cents per mile at my long-term average.
Charging at Home With Solar
But, since I also own solar panels on my house, the effective rate is usually even much lower than that: in June 2022, we used 1,158 kWh and were billed $24.60 for an average of 2.12 cents per kWh, translating into a shockingly (excuse the pun) low average of 0.76 cents per mile! In contrast, my 2007 Nissan Altima (hybrid) that I still drive occasionally gets about 33 mpg and with the fuel price at $6.00 per gallon in Southern California averages 18.2 cents per mile.
With the benefit of hindsight, I am very pleased with owning my EV. Most of the issues I experienced earlier are now resolved through the service recall. Being able to charge at home and not having to pay exorbitant gas prices are an obvious advantage. Aside from cost considerations, I enjoy EVs for their speedy performance and technology (environmental concerns were the least important consideration for me when I was shopping for a new car—as car ownership in any form is a mostly environmentally-unfriendly mode of transportation compared to public transportation).
Charging Infrastructure is Growing But Not Mature Yet
While not quite mature yet, the infrastructure has also been improving at a brisk pace, which I am certain will accelerate in the coming years. Many OEMs are either building their own charging networks or investing in joint ventures to do so. When I bought my car, charging at 150 kWh was the cutting edge, but now EVs are built to charge at twice that speed and more, with charging stations able to supply voltage high enough for that purpose. The range of EVs has also been steadily increasing, easing the range anxiety of new EV owners. The US has experienced a much slower rate of EV adoption than other countries for many reasons, but I think the trajectory to the future is now quite clear.