Audi e-tron S Sportback Road trip, tremendous but never again
Just about every single week, we hear how Europe is going to ban the sale of petrol-engine vehicles. We listen to manufacturers who will soon stop developing petrol engines; diesel has already been given the axe. That is all fine and well in Europe, but what do we do? How do we manage long-distance driving in a fully electric vehicle?
Well, we got behind the Audi e-tron S Sportback wheel and headed to the Lowveld… it did not go according to plan. But more on that later; let’s look at the vehicle first.
From the outside, this e-tron looks like other Audi SUVs in the stable, which is a good thing. We’ve seen a few electric cars of late come across as a bit too extreme, a bit too futuristic. Audi has played it safe with a modern yet familiar design. The vehicle is eye-catching, especially with its slightly flared rear wheel arches and low-slung coupe-like stance.
The front view, however, alludes to what this car is. The grille might look like that on other Audi SUV models; however, if you look closer, you will notice that there are not that many air inlets. The grille has been optimised for aerodynamics, the lower bumper is sporty, and the lights remain a unique design feature.
The rear is also as striking as the front, thanks to a light bar that connects the taillights. The Audi gives you a unique light display at night thanks to LED technology. Lower down the bumper, one will notice the absence of tailpipes. Other than that, the patron looks good and, in some cases, quite normal, to be honest.
The interior is equally as familiar as the exterior. Three large screens adorn the fascia, adding to the modern appeal. The Virtual Cockpit or digital instrument cluster can be configured according to your needs. The MMI infotainment screen offers a haptic feedback high-resolution display and houses most vehicle settings. Below that is the climate control screen where all comfort settings are housed.
Furthermore, Audi has added a unique handrest which houses the gear selector. It looks neat and uses the space where one would usually find a gear lever. Interior fit and finish are exceptional, as one can expect from an Audi product. Interior space is also impressive thanks to cleverly positioned batteries.
The Audi e-tron S Sportback features a 95kWh battery with around 370kW and 973Nm of torque. Power is sent to three electric motors, a rather unique configuration, but it is potent. The only issue, however, is the range, which, compared to competitors, could be a bit higher at around 378km.
Charging the vehicle in the city is no issue, as a DC charger at a shopping mall charges 60kW per hour. This equates to around one and a half hours to charge the e-Tron from empty to full fully. However, you will rarely arrive at the charger with an empty battery. One will calculate the charge cost on how many kWh are used and the price per kWh.
The real issue is when you hit the open road. EVs do not like constant speed. They work best in traffic and stop-and-go situations where some regenerative braking can help feed power back into the battery. Luckily for us and our little holiday, there are a few charging stations along the route.
Unfortunately, these stations have already become outdated. 22kWh is excellent for a BMW i8 not for a fully electric SUV like our Audi. Charge times on a 22kWh charger can run around 4 or 5 hours. Thankfully, brands like Audi are investing in improving charging infrastructure with world-class fast charges that will see vehicles being charged to total capacity in minutes.
We are being pushed into the EV direction, yet the infrastructure must keep pace. More than single chargers at malls are needed as more people have bought EVs. We also have a drastic electrical crisis that needs to be resolved before we can see advanced improvements. There is slow progress, but the public's buy-in has overtaken the supply.
We love EVs, and we love the Audi e-tron S Sportback; it works in a built-up area with multiple chargers in relative proximity; however, a long road trip without adequate fast chargers is not ideal. Hopefully, the implementation of these fast chargers will happen soon.