Dynamic, sophisticated, efficient: As the first fully electric series model from Audi, the e-tron delivers non-stop, emission-free mobility for more than 400 kilometres. However, does the company’s latest coup also keep what it promises in the fleet check?
This is something that Norman Scheck, mobility manager at Netze BW GmbH, and Jochen F. Obrecht, Group divisional manager of central purchasing and CEO of Garant Schuh + Mode Deutschland, wanted to find out for themselves. They had the opportunity to do so at the Audi e-tron driving experience in Munich. And we can already reveal this much: when two people (generally) agree, then the third person is especially happy…
Fleet Magazine: Mr Scheck, Mr Obrecht, could you briefly explain what your respective fields of responsibility involve?
Norman Scheck: Working within Mobility Management at Netze BW for EnBW Energie Baden-Württemberg AG, I am responsible for management of the fleet maintained by EnBW and a range of other companies – such as Yello; our team currently numbers 22 persons.
Jochen F. Obrecht: Garant Schuh + Mode Deutschland is a purchasing association of independent retailers for shoes, sportswear and leather goods, and which belongs to the ANWR Group eG; in addition, we also run the Group’s own banks. I personally have two functions: On the one hand, I’m the CEO of one of our trading partnerships, while on the other hand, I also act as the Group divisional manager in Group Purchasing as well, and in this context address the topic of mobility – and that’s also the reason that I’m here today.
Audi e-tron – Power consumption in kWh/100 km: 26.2-22.6 kWh/100km (NEFZ); 26.2–22.6 (WLTP) combined;
CO₂-emission combined in g/km: 0 g/km;
We’re happy you are – especially as you had the opportunity today to drive the new e-tron. What do you have to say about the first fully electric Audi?
Norman Scheck: I have to admit: I generally find driving an electric vehicle impressive. And the e-tron is no exception – quite the contrary: Not only the look and feel, appearance and dynamics of the vehicle make the car extremely authentic, but the driver assist systems also made a huge impression on me. And despite all the new features, the values that Audi stands for have been implemented outstandingly as well.
Jochen F. Obrecht: That’s true. I recognised the Audi DNA immediately as well – especially in its high-class exterior qualities. To be honest, I’ve been quite the sceptic when it comes to electric mobility. For me, the concept of the jack-of-all-trades just didn’t seem effective enough, especially in terms of the range. However, looking at the e-tron, the engineers at Audi really seem to have risen to the challenge.
While we’re on the topic of technology: How did you manage with the virtual exterior mirrors, which the e-tron, as the very first series production vehicle, features as an optional extra?
Jochen F. Obrecht: I think they’re superb. At first, looking down to one side instead of out of the window really is a new way of doing things – but you get used to it in no time. We use so much technology nowadays, and when its deployment results in making the fleet that extra bit safer, then that can only be a good thing.
The e-tron now comes with only one side paddle shifter on the hand rest in the centre console instead of the classic gear lever. Did its absence bother you?
Norman Scheck: Not at all. And I think that the paddle shifter makes operation feel ergonomic, and that it is very logical and intuitive to use.
After my experiences today, my interest in electric mobility has definitely increased. The concept that the e-tron uses really is very practicable; I’ve never really come across anything similar when driving other electric vehicles.
The standard equipment also includes an efficiency assistant. What impression did this feature leave you with?
Norman Scheck: We tested it on the return journey and I found it to be really practical; at these temperatures in particular, you generally tend to turn the heating right up. The vehicle then suggests turning the temperature down a little at some point in order to save energy and to extend the range.
Jochen F. Obrecht: The fact that there really is a correlation between the display and the range in the e-tron is also a huge step forwards for me. If someone tells me “turn the air conditioner off and you’ll gain an additional eight kilometres” and this calculation proves reliable, then it’s certainly a big help.
What distinguishes the e-tron from other electric vehicles that you’ve driven before?
Jochen F. Obrecht: To be perfectly honest, my experiences to date haven’t been the best – I’m talking about range. The e-tron, in contrast, is – I want to say this quite clearly – truly a fully-fledged vehicle. It has everything that I expect a car to have.
Norman Scheck: I spent half a year driving an electric vehicle as my company car. Before doing so, I hadn’t really put much thought into my own driving profile, so it was great to see just how much energy can be saved with anticipatory driving. In this regard, the e-tron has reached a whole new level. What I also really appreciate about it is its electric all-wheel drive: the high braking torque and high traction resulted in an enormous amount of wear on the tyres in the electric vehicle I was driving back then. This is unlikely to occur when driving the e-tron…
Speaking of company cars: what is the current proportion of electric vehicles in your fleets?
Norman Scheck: At the moment, we have 160 fully electric vehicles in use. The greatest challenge we initially faced was analysing the user profiles: how far does the user drive each day, or each week respectively? What if the user doesn’t drive at all for three days, and then drives 300 kilometres in one go? Finding a viable approach to charging in these circumstances isn’t easy. This is why we gave the first 50 vehicles to users who don’t drive more than 150 kilometres a day; what’s important now is to set up the charging infrastructure for the future – a very challenging task.
Jochen F. Obrecht: We don’t actually have a single electric vehicle in our fleet at the moment – only a vehicle with hybrid drive.
Can you share the reasons you’ve had to avoid fully battery-electric vehicles to date, Mr Obrecht?
Jochen F. Obrecht: In principle, there is, of course, no reason to avoid them. Electric mobility is certainly the right way to banish pollution from urban areas – and I’ve already had the e-tron configured just in case (laughing). Whether electric vehicles are a viable option for the ANWR Group eG in future will ultimately be decided by the overall balance.
Mr Scheck, to seize on what Mr Obrecht said: Is the switch worthwhile in purely economic terms?
Norman Scheck: I think we still need to wait and see for a while. Of course, electric vehicles for the fleet – quite aside from the monetary aspect – also have positive effects in terms of marketing. Moreover, I’m certain that the residual value risk will increase for conventional vehicles as the environmental regulations become stricter and stricter.
How do things look in terms of the general interest in electric vehicles among both those entitled to a company car and user choosers?
Norman Scheck: The level of interest is extremely high; only last year, we ran a campaign that allowed employees to apply for electric vehicles at very attractive conditions – and the response was overwhelming. I’m convinced that demand will continue to grow when more models with a good range that are suitable for use in fleets become available on the market.
Jochen F. Obrecht: We’re also definitely getting requests. Whereby there are many field staff among our user choosers who drive very long distances. I think that something will soon change in this regard as well – and when it does, the question of demand won’t arise anymore anyway.
According to a Dataforce study, the willingness to opt for an electric drive is higher following personal experience – what do you think about that after today’s event?
Jochen F. Obrecht: After my experiences today, my interest in electric mobility has definitely increased. The concept that the e-tron uses really is very practicable; I’ve never really come across anything similar when driving other electric vehicles.
Norman Scheck: I also think that it’s largely a matter of ensuring this comfort, and this quiet, well-balanced way of driving, can be experienced. That it’s possible is something we saw today.
The level of interest is extremely high; only last year, we ran a campaign that allowed employees to apply for electric vehicles at very attractive conditions – and the response was overwhelming. I’m convinced that demand will continue to grow when more models with a good range that are suitable for use in fleets become available on the market.
Mr Obrecht, from your perspective, why hasn’t electric mobility really gathered momentum in Germany so far?
Jochen F. Obrecht: I think that great uncertainty still prevails among the classic frequent drivers; to use a play on words, you can’t change the habits of a lifetime spent driving (laughing). But if you continue to follow the same road and consistently provide good arguments in favour of it, then many aspects, such as the whole topic of charging stations, do become manageable.
Mr Scheck, many of your “electrified” company car drivers are sure to charge at home – do they receive any incentives from you to do so?
Norman Scheck: Absolutely! Our car policy states that each company car user receives an allowance, when required, for the installation of a home charging station.
All things considered, Mr Scheck, Mr Obrecht: After weighing up all the benefits and drawbacks of electric mobility, will 2019 be the “year of the electric car”?
Jochen F. Obrecht: For Germany, I definitely hope that electric mobility continues to gain acceptance – and my appeal is clearly directed at our policy makers, especially when it comes to specific incentive schemes.
Norman Scheck: For us, as an energy company, the decision has definitely already been made in favour of electric mobility – after all, we operate one of the largest networks of charging stations in Germany. The only question that arises is, from my point of view, the availability – meaning: how many vehicles can Volkswagen deliver in 2019? (laughing)
Netze BW GmbH
As the largest company in Baden-Württemberg operating power, gas and water networks, Netze BW GmbH is a centre of excellence for network management in the EnBW Group. It also maintains a high-voltage, medium-voltage and low-voltage power grid spanning around 100,000 kilometres, and is responsible for its maintenance and ongoing expansion. Connecting renewable energies to the grid plays a significant role in the expansion of the distribution network. The company’s fleet current encompasses around 1,800 passenger vehicles.
With a volume of business totalling €8.7 billion and around 5,500 affiliated retailers from the shoe, sportswear and leather goods industry, the ANWR GROUP is one of the most successful cooperative company networks in Europe. The ANWR GROUP’s activities are concentrated on the business areas of trade & partnerships, along with financial services.
The interview was led by editor-in-chief of Fleet Magazine Markus R. Groß