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Audi’s charging hub could solve the biggest EV challenge

audi electric car charging hub
(Image credit: Audi)

EV charging can be a bit of a drag on the power grid, so Audi has come up with a new kind of “charging hub” that aims to alleviate strain while also making recharging immensely faster.

The idea, as detailed in a press release, is that Audi EV owners will be able to reserve a slot and enjoy up to 300 kW charging speeds. The clincher here is that the hub will be powered by lithium-ion batteries, which will recharge overnight to avoid putting too much load on the power grid.

While gas cars do play havoc on the environment, we have spent several decades making the process of refueling incredibly convenient. Refueling also uses relatively little electricity as not much is needed to push gasoline through a pump. Electric cars don’t have that luxury.

A common refrain from EV owners is that leaving your car to charge overnight means having a full tank in the morning. Invariably, there will be instances where an owner might be unable to charge during evening hours for one reason or another. So how do you solve for that? Audi thinks this battery-powered charging hub is the answer. You don’t even need to own an Audi EV to plug in, which, unlike Tesla's supercharging network, would make EV charging more ubiquitous.

Each hub would have up to six charging stations all hooked up a battery system with 2.45 MWh of power. For reference a MWh is 1000 kWh, and most electric cars have less than 100 kWh of battery capacity. In other words that’s a lot of power, and it means these hubs aren’t likely to run out of power very easily. 

But there are solar panels to add some supplementary charge during the day. Not only will that ease the burden on the grid during the nightly recharge cycle, that energy is coming from a clean renewable energy source.

The batteries being used are what’s known as “second-life” batteries that have been recycled and repurposed. As EV batteries reach end of life, new recycling companies are popping up that repurpose materials to help create new batteries. Given that lithium-ion batteries are made with minerals that require environmentally impactful mining, recycling will become critical in bringing new batteries to market. CNBC put out a video speaking to some of these companies, detailing what it takes to recycle batteries.

To top it off, Audi promises that these hubs can be “transported, installed and adapted to the individual location quickly - largely independent of local network capacities.” If Audi’s pilot proves to be successful, these stations could be rolled out quickly. 

The pilot scheme is due to launch in Germany in later summer, and the results will be used to decide how the hubs will be implemented in future.