The Audi E-Tron, happier in the city, on country roads than on fast highways, needs a more powerful battery, but does it matter?

“There is no free lunch,” according to Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman, but perhaps some aspects of the all-electric Audi e-tron Sportback would make it reconsider its famous saying if it was. alive today.

Audi e-tron regenerative braking technology was so effective under certain conditions that some trips in hilly countryside were made using less uptime meter mileage than was actually driven. This is just as good, as the overall battery performance was not impressive.

Modern electric cars have the ability to recover energy when the vehicle is coasting or going downhill. In traffic, when you release the accelerator, you may feel a braking effect and it replenishes your energy. The e-tron was particularly good at this, and that’s just as good because its 95 kWh battery offered less than adequate capacity.

Audi says this battery will provide 241 miles of range (in the US, the official claim is 204 miles for the 95 kWh e-tron SUV. The US uses a different formula to establish battery life. ) but during my one week experience with the car my home charger was averaging 180 miles maximum per tank. Audi also says that to protect the battery in the long run, you need to charge it to just 80% of its capacity. This shaves nearly 40 miles from the range, leaving about 100 miles less than the claim.

On short trips, it doesn’t matter. A local test run in the 63-mile Sussex countryside only took 45 miles of range availability. Friedman would have been shocked. The Audi Electric didn’t like mostly uphill rides – a 17 mile drive on uphill roads used 30 miles of uptime, but on the way back only used 8.

Longer journeys were a problem. My expressway motorway test at legal high speeds showed that range was consumed at a rate of 76.1%. In other words, if the range availability was 100 miles while traveling through Europe at 130 km / h (around 80 mph), you would get just over 76 miles. That’s much better than the 41% of the Polestar 2 and just ahead of the 73.25% of the Jaguar I-Pace.

High-speed cars and electric cars don’t mix well, says Richard Billyeald, technical director of the consulting firm Thatcham Research of Britain.

“Electric vehicles are very sensitive to aerodynamics. The faster you go you get an exponential impact of drag and 80mph uses a lot more energy than 60mph. The ideal speed is probably 50, “Billyeald said, adding that he was talking about electric cars in general and not the Audi e-tron.

The Audi has futuristic-looking streamlined cameras where you would expect to find exterior mirrors, which have a big negative impact on airflow. The cameras provide a rear view that shows inside the driver’s door, with a small screen just below where the mirrors would be.

But does reach really matter? Anyone who buys this Audi e-tron – priced at around £ 90,000 ($ 130,000) including tax for this loaded version – might well be a well-heeled early adopter who doesn’t care much about range and will jump into the Mercedes class. S or Range Rover if they want to go further than local shops or golf.

Felipe Munoz, global automotive analyst at JATO Dynamics, says no, and points out that electric cars are still at an early stage.

“I think in these segments the range is of course an important element to consider, but it is not the most important compared to the lower segments. When you pay so much for an electric car, you are doing it mainly because you want to join this “cool” green car trend, you want to impress, or just because you want to try out the new technology. Range matters more when you only have one car, but most customers in those price ranges have more than one, ”Munoz said.

“We have to remember that we are still in the early stages of electrification and the cars available today will look very basic for the next 10 years. This should therefore be seen as an experiment for both (manufacturers) and these customers. They’re both trying out this new mode of mobility, which means it’s not all figured out yet, ”Munoz said.

Automotive analyst Charles Tennant agrees that in this price bracket it’s not a game-changer, and manufacturers’ claims of electric car lineup often don’t live up to the real-world experience anyway. But as electric cars become more and more common, range will need to be addressed.

“As more electric vehicles hit the roads at lower prices, the actual range achieved will be a big problem for mainstream consumers, who can rely on just one vehicle, unlike the well-heeled Tesla.

, Porsche or Audi driver who may have more in the team. The auto industry must therefore realize the autonomy of electric vehicles if it is to avoid a negative reaction from consumers, ”said Tennant.

The car itself as a package is incredibly impressive. It looks like the business – my version was a deep metallic blue. The build quality is exactly as you would expect; impressive. The interior is luxurious with awesome stuff throughout. Performance was electric at its best; instant reaction to speed requests accomplished with barely a sound. The handling was crisp and impeccable and the air suspension made my own Suzuki Vitara feel a bit like a rattle box. The rear seats were not compromised by the plunging Sportback rear line.

Audi, Mercedes and BMW are mounting a campaign to overthrow Tesla from its dominant position as the world’s favorite premium electric car. According to Munoz of JATO Dynamics, they are getting closer.

“Yes, the (Tesla) Model S (sedan) and X (SUV) are still a benchmark, but I don’t think too long. They are quite old now and the 3 Germans are improving quickly with more modern cars, ”said Munoz.

Prices for the Audi e-tron Sportback 55 quattro start at £ 79,900 ($ 113,000) after tax. In the United States, the Audi e-tron SUV starts at $ 74,800 before taxes.

Audi e-tron Sportback 55 quattro

Battery – 95 kWh lithium-ion

Power – 402 ch

Electric motor – 2 asynchronous, 1 per axle

Torque – 561 Nm

Claimed range – 241 miles

Load – 80% in 30 minutes via a 150 kW load. 14 hour wall cabinet

Driving – all-wheel drive

Gearbox – single speed

Acceleration – 0-100 km / h-62 mph 6.6 seconds

Maximum speed – 124 mph / 200 km / h

Competition – Tesla Model X, Mercedes EQC, Jaguar I-Pace, BMW iX3, BMW iX, Polestar 2

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