The H-tron will return.
The question of hydrogen as a propulsion source is back on the table after German automaker Audi said that the pursuit of natural resources for battery production, as well as customer expectations around fully-electric cars, led them back to hydrogen. This was expressed by the company’s boss Bram Schot, who also reiterated Audi’s support of hydrogen and his intention to make Ingolstadt the centre of hydrogen (for the VW Group, at least).
“We really want to speed [hydrogen R&D] up. We are going to put more priority into hydrogen fuel cells – more money, more capacity of people, and more confidence.” – Bram Schot, Chairman, Audi AG
Schot went on to confirm to Autocar that a 6th-generation hydrogen fuel-cell prototype from Audi will reveal itself later this year, before a limited-run pilot-batch of FCEVs will be offered for leasing to private customers in 2021. Interestingly, the FCEV Audis are set to be built at their own production line in the Neckarsulm plant in Germany, a facility that already makes the A6, A7, and A8.
It wasn’t made abundantly clear the timeline with which Audi reckons that FCEVs will truly take off, but Schot reckons that it’ll be on the tail-end of this decade. The fuel-cell technology that Audi will utilise will come from Hyundai, the company’s technical partner in hydrogen-related matters since June of last year.
It’s been 3 years since we saw the Audi h-tron fuel cell concept, where Ingolstadt claimed their big yellow FC-SUV could do 600km on a ‘full tank,’ with ‘refueling’ taking just 4-minutes. Schot’s interest in hydrogen stems from the unrealistic expectations that customers have towards electric vehicles, demanding more range and power than necessary, which then makes it too expensive to mobilise the masses. With hydrogen fuel cells, it reduces the usage of high-cost energy storage (the H-tron has a 40kWh maximum battery capacity, as opposed to 95kWh in an E-tron) and puts greater emphasis on the hydrogen, which again, can be refuelled in just 4-minutes.
We like the way you’re moving, Audi.