Project e-tron Goes on a Road Trip

words/photos: George Achorn

Editor’s Note: This article originally ran in the Q4_2020 issue of quattro Magazine. If you would like to subscribe to quattro Magazine, please join Audi Club here.

Have you heard the one about the best laid plans surviving 2020? Me neither. Our particular plans involved one Audi e-tron (Project e-tron p. 68) as 2020’s weapon of choice for the annual family drive to Maine. Trouble is, “Vacationland” was enforcing a two-week quarantine for those coming from out of state, and… go figure… our kids were enforcing a mandatory no-COVID-19-test-up-my-nose stance unless they thought they had the virus. Unfortunately, Maine wasn’t going to happen.

By June, our self-inflicted quarantine was beginning to loosen. Even still, Maine hadn’t changed its stance on travel even if our cooped-up brood had. We’d ceased drive-by pick-ups to grocery stores in favor of in-person shopping and found toilet paper was now as plentiful as the then-dated toilet paper jokes. Thoughts of vacation began to return, even if Maine remained out. That’s when New York’s Finger Lakes region came to the fore.

Pandemic desperation and cabin fever have inspired countless day trips and road trips in a grand period of enlightenment whereby destinations closer to home are discovered and enjoyed. Lakes in New York beckoned us, so we charged up the e-tron… and pre-tripped our route and charging options virtually.

First up was the small and private Song Lake just off of I-81 in Preble, NY. That was some 225 miles, so effectively a one-stop run for the e-tron, but we also needed to figure charging time.

Like the pandemic itself, travel with an e-tron can inspire one to try new things in the quest to surf high-speed charging stops. While the fastest route may have been a blast due north on I-81, this wasn’t the route with the fastest chargers. We diverted through the abandoned town of Centralia famous for its still burning underground coal mine fires en route to an Electrify America charging station in Bloomsburg, PA. For those who don’t know, Electrify America is a Volkswagen Group owned network and the most commonly accessible highest of high-speed chargers. We arrived with 53% charge remaining and were back on the road in just 20 minutes… long enough to mask up, hit the bathroom, and down some prepackaged goods. Cost of charge: $23.

Back on I-81, our packed e-tron, laden with four bikes and rolling along at a brisk pace on 22-inch wheels, wasn’t exactly the model of efficiency. In fact, we’d dropped to a new low of 3.3 km/kWh, or a range of about 160 miles per full charge. Ballast and aerodynamics were not our friends.

Crossing into New York, there is a gleaming new state welcome center with free 50 kW chargers. These were the “high speed” chargers of a year or so ago but even at peak power, the e-tron only gets about a percentage point a minute. Since these chargers weren’t performing at peak, the stop lasted over 80 minutes. Fortunately, the place was empty other than a masked staff of five that was constantly cleaning, not to mention a snack shop stocked with local flavor goods. Outside, an empty playground and large grassy areas with view of nearby mountains helped pass the time. Given our two-day stay at Song Lake offered no charging and no nearby public charging, it was necessary we wait around for a full charge. Cost to charge: $0.

The next two days on Song Lake were filled with kayaking, swimming, and lounging by the water. What few miles we used going into town for supplies were made up by hooking the e-tron’s chargers to an outside wall outlet for an excruciatingly slow charge. From there, we used our remaining charge for a blast to our next stop – Skaneateles, NY.

Pronounced “Skinny Atlas” by the locals, this vibrant upstate lakefront town is highly picturesque. We lodged at the historic Sherwood Inn, just across from the town beach and steps from the thriving downtown. Here, most anyone out in public was masked, while the Inn was serving meals on their front lawn and nearby hip restaurants and shops enforced social distancing rules. For our needs, the town also featured free Level 2 chargers just a block or so back from the lake and quite secure at the town police station. Cost to charge: $0

After a few days enjoying the area, including biking the Erie Canal rail trail where we found another free Level 2 charger, we hit the road for home. Given our range challenges of the trip north, we first headed south to Audi Ithaca where we charged again at a not-quite 50kW charger, (cost to charge: $0) then mirrored our return to Electrify America at Bloomsburg where 150kW charging made all the difference, in-and-out in 20 minutes again. Cost to charge: $20.82.

From there, it was 70 miles home. Back through Centralia, then onto I-81 southbound, where we pushed on without care of efficiency. The wind howled through the bikes as we locked onto a fast-moving southbound train of cars and set the dynamic cruise control. Efficiency be damned, the e-tron is a spectacular high-speed cruiser and we had more than enough to get home in rapid fashion. That the e-tron was also incredibly cheap to operate with the help of a few free charging stations is icing on the cake. Total charging cost:  $43.82… which was all charged against the Electrify America credit that came with the purchase of the car.

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