As you can see from the previous posts in my EV Category, we have gone all-electric. We have a Chevy Bolt for every day use and an Audi etron for our regular trips to the snow. But, we have to admit, the etron has become our vehicle of choice for all longer trips. It gets much better range on the highway than the Bolt and is a great road car.
Until this past week, our longest round-trip in the etron was just under 500 miles. But when Karen's daughter and son-in-law decided to move back to Oregon and asked us if we could transport their plants, we were excited to try the etron out on a much longer trip and to use up some of our Electrify America credits.
We had done this trip before a few years ago in our Chevy Bolt to see the eclipse and had over 3 hours of charging time each way. Check out my post on that trip to get an idea of some of the charging challenges back then (and a little bit about the eclipse).
I should note that our etron is a Prestige. We always drive in Efficiency Mode with max regen and with climate set to Eco. We have 19" wheels, and since this is our 'winter' car, we have Michelin X-Ice snow tires on it. Surprisingly, on previous Audis, these Michelins provided great mileage, even in summer, and it seems to be the case on the etron as well.
We loaded up the car with a few hundred pounds of plants and associated pots, and left Santa Cruz at 5am to avoid the commute traffic. We wanted to be conservative on this trip, charging to 100% as needed on the way up. We wanted to stop every two to two and a half hours anyway for bio breaks and to get out and walk for 20-30 minutes, perfect timing while the etron was charging.
Our first stop was Electrify America in Vacaville, 120 miles from Santa Cruz. These stations are located in the Vacaville Outlet Mall, which might be interesting after 10am when the stores open. We got there at 7am. Restrooms were locked. I plugged into one of the EA chargers and saw 35 kW. I stopped the session and tried the adjacent cable on the same station. Sure enough, it started charging at 150 kW, but stopped in 5 minutes with a charging fault. We had looped back during our walk to check on the charger and were glad we did. We moved to another station and watched to ensure it would continue working. After several minutes, we took off for a short walk and returned to a fully charged etron. Our first leg showed 3.1 miles per kWh and our total actual charging time was 19 minutes.
Since restrooms were closed in Vacaville, we did have to make a stop at a rest area before arriving at our next charging stop at the Safeway in Anderson, California another 152 miles into the trip. Once again, we had an issue with the EA charging station. It looked like things were fine so we took a walk only to get a text that our ten-minute grace period had expired. The MyAudi app didn't notify us that the charging had ended because of a station fault. We returned to the station and started a new session on the adjacent cable. At that point, an excited masked person approached us to talk about the etron. He had just ordered one and had countless questions which we were happy to answer, not noticing that once again, charging had stopped. At the end of our conversation, we finally saw the problem (again, no alert from the MyAudi app), and changed stations, charging to 100%. Total charging time was 23 minutes, adding 50 kWh, but we were there for about 45 minutes because of our misplaced confidence in the MyAudi app. Even at 75-80 mph, we averaged 3 mi/kWh up I-5.
I note that after leaving Vacaville, the amount of smoke in the air increased steadily. Passing Mt. Shasta, it was impossible to see the peak through the smoke.
Our next two stops were unremarkable. We stopped in very smoky Yreka, 104 miles from Anderson and 2200' higher, averaging 2.7 mi/kWh (impressive given the altitude gain), and added 38 kWh in 15 minutes - no problems with the EA station at the Walmart.
We drove past the fire devastation between Ashland and Medford, Oregon. In places, the fire had jumped I-5, and had totally destroyed entire housing developments. Other places nearby seemed untouched. The smoke was significant but began to thin as we made our way past Grants Pass. Clouds were on the increase along with a bit of a headwind.
Our next stop was the Dairy Queen in Sutherlin, Oregon (160 miles) where we topped up to be comfortable with the remaining 108 miles to our destination in Corvallis.
Overall, the drive from Santa Cruz to Corvallis (640 miles) including stops, charging to 100% most of the time, and a few missteps took us a bit over 12 hours. Total charging time was 75 minutes. We averaged 2.9 mi/kWh for this half of the trip.
I made my way over to Albany to charge at the EA station there. I had a similar problem with a low speed on one charger, then trying the adjacent cable and getting a fault, then moving to a different charger which worked flawlessly. Lesson learned: if you have a problem with an EA charger, don't waste your time with the adjacent one on the same station. Move to another station. And, as I've learned on previous trips, if that doesn't work, call EA. They've been excellent in getting stations working.
The Return Trip and Some Alternatives
After the 10 miles from Corvallis to I-5, I kept us at about 72 mph for the remaining 178 miles and net 700' of elevation gain to the Walmart in Grant's Pass, our first charging stop. Through the hill country of southern Oregon, we averaged 2.9 mi/kWh. Since our next stop was in Yreka and we had to climb to over 4300' we decided to take advantage of the full 150 kW to 80%, adding 52 kWh in 23 minutes - long enough to pick up something to eat at one of the many nearby restaurants.
The stop at the Walmart in Yreka was again uneventful. We walked for 24 minutes while the etron charged to 100%. During that leg with a 1700' altitude gain, we averaged 2.7 mi/kWh.
Someone on one of the Facebook etron forums asked what consumption we saw at 75-80 mph. On the stretch from Willows to Sacramento, which is basically flat, we were seeing 2.8 mi/kWh at close to 80 mph in 94 degree temperatures with climate on Eco.
The town of Volcano has an interesting history. As the source of the gold found in Sutter Creek, mines in Volcano were among largest gold producers in California. In addition to the restaurant/inn, the town has an excellent theatre company and some colorful history. Nearby you can find the Black Chasm, which has some rare helictites. Daffodil Hill, Indian Grinding Rock, and areas that were hydraulically mined, leaving bizarre rock formations. It's worth a visit.
The Final Leg
We charged overnight and stopped in Volcano to deliver some masks to the restaurant. Karen (with some limited help from me - see my post How Your Spouse can help you Make Cloth Masks) has been making masks since the beginning of the pandemic. We've delivered over 2000 masks to hospitals, clinics, assisted living facilities, homeless shelters, and recently to restaurants, encouraging them to use washable cloth masks instead of disposable ones. Karen has been working with the Motherlode Mask Makers and the Santa Cruz Mask Makers, as well as a local doctor to distribute these masks.
Leaving Volcano, we took the scenic Volcano to Sutter Creek road, stopping in Sutter Creek at The Fine Eye to buy ourselves a joint 10-year anniversary present. Then we faced the heavy Sunday traffic back into the Bay Area. In spite of reduced speeds, we still averaged 3.4 mi/kWh.
First and foremost, the Audi etron is the nicest, quietest car we've ever driven. It's not just a great EV, it's a great car. The highway range is impressive (around town, not so much), and the charging speed is amazing, charging at 150kW up to 82%, tapering to 80kW about 90%, and only to 50kW at 100%.
For our return trip, we only needed three stops with total charging time of 69 minutes, and we needed those stops for lunch and bio breaks anyway. Our average mi/kWh for over 1500 miles, including driving around town in Corvallis, and slow driving in the mountains and traffic jams was 2.9 mi/kWh - 242 miles of range.
Since our trip in the Chevy Bolt three years ago, charging infrastructure has improved to the point that no one with an EV needs to worry about range on I-5. On the other hand, there are still some glitches with charging stations (we've had them with every provider), so unfortunately, you still need to plan for alternatives in case a station might be down. Fortunately, today, there are alternatives.
We honestly believe that ICE vehicles are unnecessary for most of us. Our Bolt is great for short trips (<200 miles roundtrip), and the etron is a fantastic road car for long distances. If you're thinking about taking the etron on a long trip, don't worry about the range. Use Plugshare or ABetterRoutePlanner to lay out your trip. You won't be disappointed in the etron.
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