Audi’s New Charging Hub Levels Up the Urban e-car User Experience
• Audi has created a space-saving, deconstructable, customizable charging hub that’s modeled after trade-show booths that can be assembled onsite.
• Prefabricated, modular parts shortened the construction phase by several months, which meant Audi was able to build the hub in just four weeks.
• While the car’s batteries charge at street level, visitors can relax in the lounge upstairs. They can also use a digital grocery delivery service, try out the sustainable car wash, or test drive an Audi e-tron GT.
One of the barriers to widespread electric vehicle (EV) adoption is a lack of charging infrastructure—this is especially important for city dwellers, who might not be able to charge at home. Audi had a vision of a place where e-car owners could do the week’s shopping at the touch of a button, relax in a lounge, or test-drive an Audi e-tron GT vehicle—all while their battery charges. This vision has been realized with the barrier-free Audi charging hub in the southeastern German city of Nuremberg.
The hub is minutes from the main road, and there is a subway station just around the corner. Six covered charging points can be found at street level, and the floor above houses a 200-square-meter lounge and adjoining terrace. There is also an adjacent park for customers who would rather stretch their legs than use the lounge or test-drive a new car. "Our goal is to bridge the customers' waiting time while the e-car is charging in a meaningful way. You should feel like you're gaining time instead of losing it," says Dominik Buhr, concierge at the Hub.
Recycling Vehicle Batteries for Increased Output
The Nuremberg hub can charge an average of 80 vehicles every day—and it doesn’t matter if the car is made by Audi or another manufacturer. It takes between 20 and 30 minutes to fully charge an e-car, depending on the model. The six charging points have a maximum capacity of 320 kW. The power comes from charging cubes, which are hidden behind the facade on the hub’s street level. These cubes provide sustainable electricity storage, as they house second-life lithium-ion batteries—used batteries from dismantled Audi test vehicles. The recycled batteries are used to buffer DC power, which increases the total output of the hub by four times.
Due to its 2.45 MWh buffer storage and the solar panels on its roof, the hub only needs a 200 kW connection to the low-voltage grid to continually fill the storage modules. This elaborate infrastructure does not require high-voltage supply lines or expensive transformers. “All we need to build this kind of hub is a paved area,” says Buhr. “The modular design gives us maximum flexibility when choosing a location.”
Prefabrication Saves Time, Money, and Stress
Audi chose to prefabricate the hub like a booth for a trade show, in part because it was constructed during winter conditions. “All the snow would have unnecessarily prolonged the construction,” says Philipp Heitsch, managing partner of Designliga, the architects commissioned with the project. “Prefabrication in a factory meant the weather had no effect, and as we only needed to assemble the parts on-site, we saved ourselves a lot of time and trouble.”
Each of the six wooden modules, including its windows and furnishings, was prefabricated in a factory. A crane lifted them onto the cubes that hide the batteries. Once the modules were in place, the only thing left to do was connect the pipes and lay the cables.
The hub was designed using Autodesk AutoCAD in 3D; the entire process—from planning to prefabrication to construction—took just three months, with assembly taking less than four weeks. “Without prefabrication, it would have taken us at least four to five months given the winter weather conditions,” says Heitsch.
The variable modular principle makes it possible to adapt the concept to different surfaces. “This shortens lead times for planning and implementation,” says Ralph Hollmig, project manager for the Audi charging hub. Although the Nuremberg hub is a temporary project that will only run until the end of 2023, Audi is already planning other hubs in Europe. One has already opened in Zurich, and more will open soon, providing simple, accessible solutions that make significant strides toward removing the barriers to integrating electric vehicles into urban lifestyles.