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Audi poised to announce fuel cell car

By raccars Published

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German manufacturer Audi is close to putting its first ever fuel cell vehicle into mass production.

To date the only fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) to bear Audi’s badge have been concept cars and prototypes; models which prove that the firm is capable of developing a hydrogen-powered vehicle to rival existing equivalents from companies such as Honda. But now executives at the firm are reported to be close to announcing a true mainstream FCV, according to AutoExpress. And this appears to be part of Audi’s plan to eventually make the vast majority of its models more eco-friendly, thanks to the use of electric motors.

There have been three Audi FCVs appearing in concept form at motor shows thus far, with the A2 hatchback and Q5 SUV getting this treatment alongside the A7 h-tron which arguably has the greatest potential to end up in production. But while the specific details of its first commercially available FCV remain a secret, Audi seems closer than ever to entering this part of the market.

Audi’s eco plans

Audi spokesperson Dr Rene Van Doorn said in a recent interview that the company has a decade-long plan relating to FCVs and electric vehicles which it intends to put into action once market conditions are favourable. This essentially means that it is holding off until the time is right both in terms of public demand and infrastructure to justify going full throttle on its FCV ambitions. And judging by the current murmurings within the company, this plan may become reality sooner rather than later.

Audi’s intention is to bring electric power in some form or another to every single one of its ranges. Of course this doesn't mean that they will all be powered by hydrogen overnight, but rather that some will offer mild or plug-in hybrid capabilities while others will be battery-powered and a healthy number of FCVs will also be made available to customers. So even those Audi models which retain traditional engines will see their fuel efficiency bolstered thanks to the presence of electric motors.

Meanwhile the company’s top power train specialists are also keen to emphasise the idea that even with electric motors becoming more common under the skin of Audi’s vehicles, it will continue to invest in the development of petrol and diesel engines so that every type of fuel can be used effectively and efficiently. In particular, it is pointing to the launch of its 48 volt hybrid range in 2016 as being a major innovation, with this system helping to remove any turbo lag and improve fuel savings at faster speeds than are currently achievable.

Further efficiency innovations

FCVs may soon be built by Audi for sale in the UK, but at the recent Future Performance event it also revealed a number of other ideas in the dual pursuits of making its cars more sustainable and efficient. This includes the use of intelligent dampers which not only improve handling, but can also recycle the kinetic energy generated by cornering and use it to power certain on-board systems. This might mean that air conditioning is eventually operated without a commensurate increase in fuel consumption, which would be a major breakthrough.

Modern cars already utilise technologies such as regenerative braking to save energy where possible, so taking this concept further will be increasingly important as hybrids and full electric vehicles become more common. And with Audi set to produce hydrogen-powered cars of its own, there will be more of an incentive to invest in making this type of fuel available throughout the UK.

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