In addition to bringing its production A4-based allroad to the North American International Auto Show, Audi also unveiled the h-tron quattro concept car, which employs a fuel cell to generate power for the vehicle’s electric motors. The German automaker says the fuel-cell stack is capable of generating 110 kilowatts, while a backup lithium-ion battery back can deliver an additional 100 kW for a combined output of more than 270 horsepower.
The Audi h-tron quattro employs two electric motors, one on each axle to provide all-wheel-drive capability. The vehicle is capable of going from a standstill to 60 miles per hour in less than 7 seconds. Range is estimated at more than 370 miles, and the hydrogen tanks can be refilled in less than 4 minutes.
New Face, New Technology
While the shape of the Audi h-tron quattro is similar to the Q5/Q7 crossover SUVs, the show car sports a new grille shape that is more horizontal than vertical and features bars that extend to the corners of the front end. LED headlamps are tucked neatly into narrow slits just beneath the hoodline. Prominent wheel-arch flares, large alloy wheels and highly sculpted rocker panels are design cues intended to underscore the vehicle’s all-wheel-drive capability.
In addition to showcasing the fuel-cell powerplant, the Audi h-tron quattro is also a test bed for future autonomous driving and parking features that will go into production next year in the all-new Audi A8. Called piloted driving by Audi, the system employs a central driver-assistance controller that computes a model of the car’s surroundings in real time and uses that data to run the driver-assist and autonomous driving/parking features of the car. The vehicle can take over driving duties when parking or traveling in stop-and-go traffic at speeds up to 37 mph.
There’s a lot of debate about whether the future of cars involves electric vehicles or hydrogen fuel-cell models as the h-tron quattro uses. Audi seems to be developing both, though the h-tron quattro is likely a long way from going on sale. Still, it’s both an interesting design exercise and an exciting powertrain feat, as the h-tron quattro boasts the refueling time and range of a standard gas-powered car — except with no emissions. We’re excited to see whether the powertrain from the h-tron quattro concept car could find its way into a production vehicle in the next few years.