How IONITY enables electric mobility for long-distance travel
Mr. Mertens, have you charged yet today?
Anno Mertens: Indeed, I did. I’m driving an Audi e-tron, and I charge it frequently at home and at Audi.
So that means that, compared to many customers, you don’t have the “range anxiety” – i.e. worrying about the range of your electric car?
No, in my opinion, these concerns are unfounded. Alongside our first all-electric model, the Audi e-tron, we’re developing charging solutions not only for people’s homes, but for on the road, too. We knew that we would need a reliable charging network for our long-distance electric car so our customers can use the car as their main vehicle. IONITY is an important step for customers and manufacturers.
What’s so special about IONITY?
IONITY is more than just a manufacturer of quick charging stations – several competitors are cooperating to make electric mobility a success. Until now, a short stop on the motorway wasn’t enough to fully charge the battery, because there wasn’t an existing high-power charging network. So, we had to take action. Together with BMW, Daimler and Ford, the Volkswagen Group founded the IONITY joint venture with Audi and Porsche in November 2017. It’s the first pan-European high-power charging network.
How does IONITY plan to install more charging stations for electric cars?
IONITY looks for partners in European countries with attractive locations on major traffic routes and motorways – places where drivers would typically stop during long-distance travel. They are working together with cooperation partners such as “Tank & Rast”, “SHELL”, “OMV”, “MRH”, “Circle K.” and many more. They have a clear goal: to set up and operate 400 rapid charging stations in optimum locations by end of 2020. About 230 stations are already operating, and contracts for most of the remaining locations have been signed.
The design of the charging stations embodies innovation and performance. Will the technology also win people over?
There’s no question about it. The high-power charging network is built to be technologically future-proof. Each quick charging station has an average of six chargers. IONITY uses the open European charging standard “Combined Charging System” (CCS). The Audi e-tron can be charged with up to 150 kW. We were the first manufacturer to bring this kind of charging capacity into mass production. With IONITY, the car is ready for the next long haul in just 30 minutes. And that’s not all: the charging stations are built to be future-proof, meaning that charging at up to 350 kW will be technically possible in the future.
Here’s a thought: let’s say I have to charge the battery of my electric car at an IONITY station on my way from Berlin to Vienna. How do I proceed?
It’s very simple. When the car is purchased, the Audi customer optionally receives a card for the e-tron Charging Service. The customer just has to hold the card up to the charger to begin the charging process. Payment is made digitally, using the bank account stored in the owner’s myAudi Portal. In the future, Plug & Charge will mean that the customer need only plug the charging cable into the car. The car will automatically connect to the charging station – extremely convenient and easy.
And where does IONITY get the electricity from?
The joint venture has set itself the goal of using as much renewable energy as possible. In order to operate most of the fast-charging stations in Europe with green electricity, IONITY works specifically with local energy suppliers and designs the contacts accordingly. Electric mobility is only sensible and consistently sustainable when the electricity comes from renewable sources.
IONITY provides electric cars in Europe with power and range. How does Audi support electric drivers outside Europe?
Customers’ charging requirements vary from country to country. The requirements in the USA and in Canada hardly differ from those in Europe. Customers there also want to travel long distances in their “battery electric vehicle” (BEV for short). “Electrify America” and “Electrify Canada” are building a high-performance quick charging infrastructure with charging capacities much like the IONITY stations. In China, however, the situation is different. Hardly any customer there wants to drive from Beijing to Shanghai by car. Although there are long distances between Chinese metropolises, the requirements for the charging infrastructure are different.
Aside from IONITY, what are the next goals Audi wants to reach in terms of electric mobility, range, and infrastructure?
In 2018, the Audi e-tron ushered in our electro-offense. We are now implementing this systematically and comprehensively. This spring, the Audi e-tron Sportback, our second electric car will start into the market. Both these electric cars offer long-distance mobility; the Audi e-tron has a range up to 436 km based on the WLTP-Cycle, the Sportback even 10 kilometers more.
Customers who need to charge their cars can use the e-tron Charging Service to get convenient access to the majority of all public charging stations in Europe. Regardless of whether they need AC or DC charging, whether 11 or 150 kW, it all works with a single card. 24 EU markets are currently live; expansion to Eastern Europe will take place over the course of the year. Customers can charge at almost 145,000 charging stations throughout Europe — and the network is constantly expanding. So we have already achieved quite a lot, and we are consistently going forward along this path.
What is your personal take on the future of the automotive industry?
We are in the midst of a process of transformation. It’s time to start thinking beyond the car itself. There’s just no getting around that in the era of electric mobility. Car will continue to be a foundational elements within the system, but more elements will be added. One example is connecting cars with homes and power grids — here, too, we have to think beyond the car itself to create value for our customers.
Mr. Mertens, thank you very much for the electrifying conversation.