Audi turns to software to add more range to its older e-tron EVs

Audi has rolled out a new software update to its 2019 model year e-tron electric SUV that will add up to 12 miles of range to the battery.

While the improvement might not seem significant — it is, after all, only 12 miles — it does show how automakers are using software to improve older electric vehicles. In this case, Audi used software to unlock more capacity in the existing battery, essentially improving its efficiency. The automaker also said the software updates have improved the efficiency of the front electric motor and the battery’s thermal management system.

The 2019 Audi e-tron 55 quattro is equipped with a 95 kilowatt-hour battery and will now use 86 kWh of capacity. That will push its range from the original 411 kilometers to about 441 km (274 miles) under the WLTP standard. (EPA standard is considered more conservative; the original EPA estimates for the 2019 was 204 miles.)

The software update is available to all Audi e-tron 55 quattro production vehicles built between mid-September 2018 (model year 2019) and the end of November 2019 (model year 2020). Unlike Tesla, which lets owners launch software updates over-the-air, meaning anywhere they can access Wi-Fi, Audi requires a visit to one of its service centers.

This will help the older model keep apace of the newer 2020 and 2021 Sportback and e-tron SUV, which have improved software and hardware.

One might wonder why Audi didn’t just use that capacity to begin with. Audi and other automakers entering into the EV game initially limited the usable capacity of its battery out of an abundance of caution to avoid any degradation.

Other automakers are beginning to use over-the-air software updates, following Tesla’s lead, to improve or add features. In February, Volvo launched its first OTA software update on its all-electric XC40 Recharge in Europe. Volvo released an OTA this month that increased driving range through improvements to the battery management system and pre-conditioning timer. The company also launched a Range Assistant app to help drivers get the most range out of their batteries.