Firm ramps up fuel cell efforts with new prototype amid EV development concerns

Audi is set to intensify its development of hydrogen fuel cell technology, according to a public announcement by chairman Bram Schot

The reasons behind the move include concerns over the sourcing of natural resources for battery production and doubts over electric cars being able to deliver on ever-more-demanding customer expectations. 

As a result, the German car maker will re-establish its h-tron programme in a move planned to make it the centre of competence for hydrogen fuel cell technology within the Volkswagen Group. 

“We really want to speed it up,” Schot said. “We are going to put more priority into hydrogen fuel cells – more money, more capacity of people and more confidence.” 

Schot confirmed a new sixth-generation hydrogen fuel cell prototype will be revealed later this year. He added that a limited-volume pilot production Audi FCEV (fuel cell electric vehicle) model could be offered to customers as part of a lease programme by 2021. It is expected to be produced on a dedicated line at Audi’s Neckarsulm plant in Germany – a site that presently produces the A6, A7 and A8

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Schot tells Autocar about Audi's future

A timescale for volume production of Audi FCEV models has yet to be decided, but Schot is confident this could occur during the second half of the next decade. The new fuel cell technology is developed from a cross-licensing agreement with Hyundai, which already sells the Nexo SUV. The two car makers announced they were joining forces on FCEV development in June last year. 

At the 2016 unveiling of the h-tron fuel cell concept, Audi claimed a range of up to 600km (373 miles). Crucially, it also promised a refuelling time of just four minutes. 

The decision to push ahead with fuel cell development comes in the middle of a broader £12 billion offensive in which Audi will launch up to 12 pure-electric battery-driven models by 2025

Schot, who succeeded Rupert Stadler as Audi chairman in January, pointed to the scarcity of materials and subsequent doubts over the high-volume supply of batteries as just two concerns facing car makers. 

“If this modality is here to stay, then you have to try to find the most effective and efficient way to drive electric,” he said. “And then you come to hydrogen fuel cells.” 

The plans to intensify hydrogen development at Audi also centre on attempts to create greater range and lessen the requirement for charging during long journeys and in cold weather. 

In an extension of its previous programme, Audi’s sixth-generation hydrogen fuel cell system incorporates a battery that can be charged via a plug as part of a hybrid system. 

Depending on the model, the battery capacity is put at 35-40kWh, significantly less than Audi’s all-electric E-tron, at 95kWh. It is sufficient for up to 93 miles of range alone. 

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14

3 May 2019
Batteries will be a temporary stop gap.
Steam cars are due a revival.

3 May 2019
Thekrankis wrote:

Batteries will be a temporary stop gap.

The amount of electricity required to isolate and compress hydrogen (before it even reaches the car) makes this technology obsolete. Advanced batteries are the only way forward.

3 May 2019
95% of commercial Hydrogen is produced as a by-product or directly from methane and natural gas. 5% only is from electrolysis.

The research is ongoing to develop economic and viable Hydrogen production.

It will happen.

Steam cars are due a revival.

3 May 2019
Sonic wrote:
Thekrankis wrote:

Batteries will be a temporary stop gap.

The amount of electricity required to isolate and compress hydrogen (before it even reaches the car) makes this technology obsolete. Advanced batteries are the only way forward.

I'm not convinced it's obsolete but neither am I convinced it's the ideal solution. It partly depends on where the energy to produce the hydrogen comes from. If you can build your hydrogen plant near a souce of renewable energy then maybe it still has potential however it will never be as efficient as using the energy from that renewable power source to directly charge a battery. Then again with a battery powered EV you have the challenge of sourcing the materials for the battery and then recycling it at the end of its life.

3 May 2019
Will86 wrote:

I'm not convinced it's obsolete but neither am I convinced it's the ideal solution. It partly depends on where the energy to produce the hydrogen comes from. If you can build your hydrogen plant near a souce of renewable energy then maybe it still has potential however it will never be as efficient as using the energy from that renewable power source to directly charge a battery. Then again with a battery powered EV you have the challenge of sourcing the materials for the battery and then recycling it at the end of its life.

Exactly right. There is also quite a bit of power loss between the transitions to generate the hydrogen, and energy usage for transportation etc. It's super complex and expensive compared to just charging a battery directly from a renewable power source.

Although, as the battery size required to power a hydrogen vehicle does not need to be as large as a pure EV, I think the technology can still be useful for larger transportation, like shipping.

3 May 2019
Sonic wrote:
Will86 wrote:

 

I'm not convinced it's obsolete but neither am I convinced it's the ideal solution. It partly depends on where the energy to produce the hydrogen comes from. If you can build your hydrogen plant near a souce of renewable energy then maybe it still has potential however it will never be as efficient as using the energy from that renewable power source to directly charge a battery. Then again with a battery powered EV you have the challenge of sourcing the materials for the battery and then recycling it at the end of its life.

Exactly right. There is also quite a bit of power loss between the transitions to generate the hydrogen, and energy usage for transportation etc. It's super complex and expensive compared to just charging a battery directly from a renewable power source. Although, as the battery size required to power a hydrogen vehicle does not need to be as large as a pure EV, I think the technology can still be useful for larger transportation, like shipping.

This issue with your statement is "just charging your battery directly" - you aren't plugging into a power plant.

There's significant transmissions losses, further losses between the car and charger, losses from battery inefficiency.

A hydrogen fuel cell offers substantial benefits - and as it still runs via electric power, PHEV benefits are substantial. It's a technology that gels well with pure EV tech, and doesn't produce CO2 itself.

4 May 2019
Not sure you've thought this through. Transmission losses with hydrogen too - you have to either do the electrolysis close to the user (same transmission losses) or do it centrally and ship the hydrogen about the place. Not too practical.

More to the point, the gross has been designed to achieve high efficiency transmission with only small losses.

Conversely the "round trip efficiency" of electricity-hydrogen-electricity is shockingly poor. Which is why in practice the world's hydrogen comes from steam reformation of methane - i.e. it's a fossil fuel.

This poor round trip efficiency is due you fundamental physics, so it's no use saying "it just needs more research." So in a world where "renewable energy is so plentiful we can afford to throw it away" hydrogen works well. Our world, not so much.

4 May 2019
Sorry, "grid" not "gross"

3 May 2019
Sonic wrote:
Thekrankis wrote:

Batteries will be a temporary stop gap.

The amount of electricity required to isolate and compress hydrogen (before it even reaches the car) makes this technology obsolete. Advanced batteries are the only way forward.

One of the projects I'm currently working on will produce so much hydrogen, as a biproduct, they will have to burn it off.

4 May 2019
No idea how big your project is, but I'd be staggered if it was sufficient to power the world's transport via a terribly inefficient conversion to electricity.

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