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Expert Interview: Florian Kehl (Audi charging hub)

Florian Kehl has been a project manager at Audi in the Audi charging hub project since October 2020 and co-founded the idea of Audi charging hubs at Audi. This is a concept to make fast charging of electric vehicles in urban areas more convenient. The concept differs significantly from existing solutions in terms of user experience, technology and design.

Which experiences have you gained in the mobility sector so far?

I have been with AUDI AG since 2012 and have been working in the electromobility area since 2017. The focus here has always been on public charging, especially fast charging, also referred to as High Power Charging (HPC).

What distinguishes an Audi charging hub, what do you stand for?

With an Audi charging hub, we want to bring fast charging with high charging capacities to cities. In cities, this currently fails because of two things: the available space and the necessary grid connection. The Audi charging hub is an elegant solution to both of these issues.

On the one hand, we do not require any complex and costly civil engineering or foundations, but rather simply place them on existing paved parking areas such as parking lots. Secondly, our so-called power cubes contain large battery storage units made from 2nd life battery modules from earlier test vehicles. Thus, we can avoid the otherwise necessary medium-voltage connection and connect the hub directly to the widespread low-voltage grid.

How long has Audi charging hub been around and what have been your biggest achievements over the past year?

We have been using the Power Cubes as a temporary fast charging solution at events since 2018. In October 2020, we further developed the idea to also offer stationary charging up to 320 kW per charging point with the advantages mentioned. We are focusing on a premium charging experience that is also accessible to people with disabilities without discrimination. Additional convenience is provided by a swivel arm for simplified handling of the charging cable, a roof over the charging points with lighting, and an appealing ambience.

Customers should not have to spend the average charging time of around 30 minutes in the rain or in their vehicles but should be able to use the time sensibly. To this end, we want to offer additional services and an ecosystem to turn the time spent charging into time well spent. In addition, we offer Audi customers a reservation option to address and solve the issues of peak demand for charging points and give planning reliability.

In Nuremberg, we opened our worldwide first Audi charging hub in December 2021. In addition to additional services such as e-scooters, a delivery service or, in the future, a mobile car wash, we also offer a lounge on the top floor at this location as a highlight. Visitors can expect a high-quality food vending machine, appealing seating, sanitary facilities and free Wi-Fi to make their time as pleasant as possible. And the customers are simply thrilled, which is shown by the direct feedback as well as the number of charging events that take place. For the future, solutions without a lounge are also conceivable, in which we make use of an existing infrastructure at the location partner or, in the case of parking areas, in the immediate vicinity.

How do you as a team see the role of “individual car transport” in the next five years and in the next 20 years?

There is no general answer to this question. We assume that there could be a shift in favor of public or even shared transport. Nevertheless, individual transport, in whatever form of ownership, will continue to play a dominant role. If we as a company and society want to master the energy transition, it will only work through electromobility. This is precisely where we want to start. Today, city residents often do not have the option of charging at home or at work. The Audi charging hub transfers the function of a gas station into the age of electromobility and offers customers the opportunity to charge their vehicle very quickly when they need it.

When everyone comes home in the evening, all standard AC charging points in the residential area will be in high demand in the near future. Until the next morning, when I actually want to drive off again with a full battery. With our approach, we offer the customer an alternative solution. We don’t want to replace use cases such as charging on the side or during a longer parking period, but rather offer an alternative solution when I want or need to quickly recharge my weekly demand in the city, for example.

What role do parking areas or parking garages in particular play here?

Thanks to the flexible concept, we have the option of converting existing parking spaces into charging stations in just 1 to 4 weeks depending if it´s with or without a lounge concept.. For parking area operators, we are tapping into a whole new customer group with the fast-charging use case, which otherwise would not have visited the location at all. At the same time, existing customers can quickly charge before or after their arrival.

From your perspective, how digital is parking today and what can/should change?

The issue of 24/7 access plays an enormously significant role for charging. At the same time, customers who arrive due to fast charging should also receive discounted or free access for the short period of fast charging. In our view, digital solutions are needed for this. There is still great potential here regarding numerous parking areas…

What points of contact do you see for your solutions in the area of off-street parking? What would you like to share with our readers?

With our concept, we are particularly focusing on open parking areas and less on parking garages or underground garages. The reason is primarily to be seen in the traffic flow. From our point of view, it is always a compromise to relocate public fast-charging infrastructure with a high throughput to enclosed parking spaces. If there is an open space in front of the parking garage, such a location is again interesting. 

We offer interested site or parking area operators a complete solution from a single source. This means that we handle the investment, construction and operation. The design language and technical advantages of the Audi charging hub allow locations to be upgraded, while at the same time high-power charging makes completely new target groups accessible that previously had no connection to the location. In other words, a win-win-win situation for customers, location partners and us.

Thanks for the insight into the future of fast charging!

Very gladly. I hope to have raised the interest of many. We are always happy to receive ideas and suggestions for locations. The project team can be reached via e-mail at audicharginghub@audi.de.

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