One byproduct of electrification has been the greater attention put towards vehicle software. Tesla software updates have been and will continue to be the gold standard for any automaker moving forward. While no automaker has fully explored the scope of car updates like Tesla has, we are starting to see little glints of effort here and there. Recently Audi announced that it will be offering a software update to early e-tron models to increase their range.
The software update is available for e-tron models produced from September 2018 to November 2019. Like many other automakers, Audi instituted a large battery buffer in the early models. This was done in an effort to help with battery degradation and safety. So while the e-tron comes with a 95 kWh battery, it only used about 83 kWh. This large of a buffer was probably overly cautious as it decreased in the newer models.
Now the software update will decrease the buffer on older models as well, bringing their usable range up by about 12 miles. It might not sound like much, but hey, when was the last time a gas car had its efficiency improved from some lines of code? However, the update is more involved than simply scaling back the buffer. Audi wrote that it also improved the control of the front motor and the cooling.
In addition to the battery capacity, the new software also optimizes the control of the front electric motor. In normal driving mode, the motor attached to the rear axle is responsible for propulsion. For improved efficiency, the front electric motor is now almost completely disconnected and powered off – and only when more power is needed do both motors come into play. This makes it possible to even more effectively exploit the major advantage of the asynchronous motor concept, i.e., currentless operation without electrical drag losses.
Furthermore, the update also improves cooling. The highly flexible thermal management system, which consists of four separate circuits, regulates the temperature of the high-voltage components even more efficiently. Modifying the control system made it possible to reduce the volume flow rates in the coolant circuit, thus reducing energy consumption. The cooling system is the basis for fast DC charging, long battery life, and consistent driving performance, even under high loads.
While it’s nice to see software updates being put to good use by someone not named Tesla, there is still a catch. The Audi e-tron does not come with over-the-air software updates. As such, one will have to take the e-tron to a service center to have the update pushed. For that Audi, you’ll get half a gold star.
How long before these types of updates will finally become the norm across the auto industry? Let us know down in the comments below.