Future Models - Audi 2017 h-tron quattro concept
Detroit show: Audi outs h-tron quattro concept
H pattern: Audi is continuing to explore hydrogen as a source of clean, renewable energy for cars with a sporty h-tron quattro concept.
e-tron concept evolves into hydrogen fuel-cell-powered Audi h-tron quattro show-car
Click to see larger images
12 January 2016
AUDI has revisited the possibility of hydrogen fuel-cells as an alternative
automotive energy with a Detroit motor show concept that has the range,
performance and refuelling time of combustion engines, but produces zero
Based on the e-tron quattro concept that broke cover at the Frankfurt motor
show last year, the h-tron quattro concept has an additional hydrogen fuel-cell
that generates 110kw of electrical energy and another 100kW on tap from a
temporary lithium-boost battery for sub-7.0 second 0-100km/h performance.
Critically though, while the h-tron has the performance and environmental
benefits of the full-electric version, its hydrogen fuel tank is far faster to
fill than charging a battery, taking just four minutes for a full top-up.
At its core, the h-tron quattro uses a fuel-cell, which can produce up to 280
volts and with recent advances in the technology is 60 per cent efficient. For
comparison, the best figure an internal combustion engine manages is around 40
per cent thermally efficient.
After refuelling, the h-tron has a range of up to 600km, which is also
comparable to more conventional combustion engine-powered vehicles, but a
roof-mounted solar array can extend that figure while driving.
Its 210kW and 550Nm of torque is fed to all four wheels via a motor on each
axle for typical Audi quattro traction and road-holding, and was first
demonstrated in the Audi A7 Sportback h-tron quattro.
While other car-makers have experimented with cryogenic storage, the Audi's
hydrogen is stored at normal temperatures, using extreme pressures of 700 bar
to hold up to six kilograms of the gas in three separate composite-material
That may not sound like much but hydrogen is much lighter than air and the
h-tron needs just one kilogram of the gas to travel 100km.
The trio of bottles are different sizes and distributed around the h-tron's
structure so that no interior space is sacrificed – an advantage of the
flexible MLB evo platform on which the h-tron is based, says Audi.
In addition to the performance practicalities, the h-tron also offers other
handy features such as a cabin that can accommodate four occupants in sporty
seats with ample headroom, as well as 500 litres of luggage or 1610 litres with
the rear seats folded.
The German car-maker is not yet talking about a production version and,
although Audi Australia product communications executive Shaun Cleary told
GoAuto the company was intrigued by all alternative energy solutions, he said a
production hydrogen model would be hard to justify in Australia until a local
refuelling network was implemented.
“We are definitely interested in all new alternative drivetrain technologies
with the e-tron (A3) on sale since August last year, and we think our customers
are also interested in these forward-looking alternative technologies, but
obviously the infrastructure has to support it and, I think it's fair to say,
in Australia, it's not quite there,” he said.
But Mr Cleary said that the hydrogen network had every chance to become
established in the same way as the electric recharging network is growing, and
projects like the A7 h-tron and h-tron concept are examples of the company's
continued research into multiple power sources.
“It is building on the EV side to support the e-tron and that's not to say
there won't be a similar level of support in the future for hydrogen cars...
It's definitely something we've been looking at for some years.”
While Australia lags behind other parts of the world in alternative energy,
some European countries including Germany are taking on the responsibility of
pioneering hydrogen power.
The Audi e-gas facility in Werlte, Germany produces hydrogen using only
renewable wind power for a sustainable and environmentally sensitive source of
power for fuel-cell vehicles.
In an additional stage, the facility forms synthetic methane from the hydrogen
for use in Audi's experimental A3 g-tron and A4 g-tron vehicles.
Independent stations such as the H2 facility in South Tyrol, Italy produce
hydrogen from wind energy during off-peak electricity periods, ensuring the
resulting fuel source is reasonably priced as well as environmentally sound.