This, Internet, is Audi’s first major foray into the world of hydrogen-powered cars. It’s called the H-tron Quattro Concept, and a production version could be with us by the end of the decade.
It’s launched at the Detroit motor show, and in what is probably a shrewd move for pushing fuel cell technology into the limelight, it’s a nicely fashionable SUV. One not unlike the E-tron Quattro Concept we saw last year, in fact. The two are very closely related, and they aesthetically preview a BMW X6 rival, likely called Q6.
This H-tron isn’t quite as fast or powerful as the E-tron, its drivetrain producing 282bhp and 550Nm maximums, enough for a sub-7.0sec 0-100kph time and a (limited) 200kph top speed.
More importantly, its range is quoted at 600 kilometers, and the tanks – which sit below the passengers – can be fully refuelled in four minutes. Try that with an electric car. There are no tailpipe emissions, and if the hydrogen has been produced in a renewable way, the H-tron has “zero global emissions”.
Drive comes via electric motors, but these are powered by a hydrogen fuel cell as opposed to batteries. Nevertheless, it ought to drive as quietly and seamlessly as a typical EV: we had a go in Audi’s A7 H-tron prototype last year, and it felt and sounded just like an electric car.
This H-tron concept demonstrates Audi’s latest generation of fuel cell, which sits under the bonnet in the place of an internal combustion unit. Alone it produces 148bhp, while an extra dose of power (to yield that 282bhp maximum) is provided for short periods by a 60kg lithium ion battery that sits in the centre of the H-tron’s floor.
An electric motor sits at each axle, ensuring the H-tron is all-wheel drive. While a higher proportion of power goes to the rear wheels, the H-tron is front-driven at low speeds. Energy is recovered under braking, the levels of which can be dictated by the driver.
There’s air suspension, allowing different ride heights to bias comfort or sportiness (and aerodynamics), while the 22inch wheels shroud ceramic brake discs.
Other technologies are abundant, too; a solar roof helps increase efficiency further, while there’s lots of fancy lighting. The front and rear lights use OLEDs, while similar technology forms the basis of the interior displays, which use gently curved screens, just like those posh new TVs.
And it being a concept in 2016, it wouldn’t be complete without a preview of autonomous driving. A gaggle of sensors, scanners and cameras show us the technology that will feature on the 2017 A8 limo, the first Audi to come with self-driving capability.
Audi claims the H-tron “demonstrates just how emotion-packed piloted driving can be.” Convinced?