Audi h-tron quattro concept

Future mobility on show at Detroit.

Showcasing Audi’s ongoing development of new and more efficient fuels, the Audi h-tron quattro concept study unveiled at the Detroit International Motor Show represents another leap forward in future mobility.

13 January, 2016

Always pushing the boundaries, Audi has unveiled its latest concept car at the Detroit International Motor Show, which combines a hydrogen fuel cell and electric power. The Audi h-tron quattro concept study shows the benefits of light weight construction and tremendous advances made by Audi in fuel cell technology and electric propulsion, with a vehicle that offers fast refuelling (around four minutes) and a range of up to 600 kilometres.

The three hydrogen tanks are located beneath the floor of the passenger compartment and the luggage compartment but do not impinge on the interior. At a pressure of 700 bar, they store enough hydrogen for a range of up to 600 kilometres.

Every tank is made up of several layers – the inner tank from gas-tight polyamide is wrapped in carbon fibre reinforced polymer (CFRP) and fibre glass reinforced polymer (FGRP).

With an efficiency rating in excess of 60 percent, the fuel cell now surpasses any combustion engine and clearly demonstrates just what is possible in the future.

The fuel cell technology develops up to 110kW, but is complemented by a compact lithium-ion battery weighing less than 60 kilograms which is located beneath the floor of the passenger compartment to maintain a low centre of gravity. This battery supplies up to 100kW of power when required – ideal for a temporary, forceful accelerating for overtaking – and then when the car is under brakes, the energy is recovered and stored. With 550Nm of system torque available, the Audi h-tron quattro accelerates from 0 to 100km/h in less than seven seconds and boasts a governed top speed of 200km/h.


Sharing the same modular longitudinal platform (MLB eve) as the e-tron quattro concept unveiled at last year’s Frankfurt International Show, the h-tron quattro is driven by two electric motors powered by the fuel cell and high-voltage battery.

One motor is located on the front axle and outputs 90kW while the other is on the rear axle and develops 140kW. This concept makes the technology study an electrified quattro. An intelligent management system controls the interplay between them as appropriate for the situation, placing maximum emphasis on efficiency. A heat pump for the interior air conditioning and a large solar roof that generates up to 320 watts, equivalent to adding up to 1,000 kilometres to the range annually, also boost efficiency.

The Audi h-tron quattro concept achieves not only zero local emissions, but zero global emissions if the hydrogen it runs on has been produced with green power. The brand with the four rings achieves this at the Audi e-gas facility in North Germany.

Since 2013, the world’s first power-to-gas plant has been using electricity generated by wind power to break water down into oxygen and hydrogen by electrolysis. In a further process, this gas is currently reacted with CO2 to produce Audi e-gas, or synthetic methane, for the Audi A3 g-tron and the A4 g-tron with CNG drive.

Many customers are already using the e-gas fuel card in Germany to buy Audi e-gas via the existing natural gas network at conventional CNG filling stations, enabling them to drive almost CO2-neutrally. But in future it will be possible to tap this hydrogen source so that fuel cell cars can run on this climate-friendly fuel.

But the h-tron quattro is not just an ‘efficiency showcase’ at the expensive of technology of occupant comfort. Carrying the very latest in automotive technology, it also showcases the tremendous progress Audi is making in the field of piloted driving.

Drawing information on its surroundings from raft of sensors, all available sensor information is then processed by a central driver assistance system (zFAS), which computes a complete model of the car’s surroundings in real time and makes this information available to the assistance systems and the piloted driving systems. They can assume driving tasks during parking or in stop-and-go traffic on highway at speeds of up to 60 km/h.

So advanced is this technology after years of R&D work at Audi, that in 2017 the brand will begin using the technology in series production from 2017 on the next generation of Audi A8s.

The h-tron quattro also showcases automotive design that maximises efficiencies in its own right. Like the e-tron quattro from last year, the design of this concept study is not only visually appealing but serves a practical purpose.

Its drag co-efficient is just 0.27 which is extraordinary for a large SUV design. Aerodynamic elements down the flanks, on the underbody and at the rear improve the way air flows around the car at higher speeds and cameras take the place of exterior mirrors, further streamlining the body.

Lighting too plays an important role in the h-tron quattro with new headlights divided into upper and lower sections – the upper section generating the light using the new, extremely high-resolution Matrix laser technology, while the lower section, which correspond to the slats in the Singleframe grille – form the lighting signature.

In addition to the white daytime running lights signature, flat OLED (organic light emitting diode) elements radiate a homogeneous blue light to the sides and upwards. Beneath the lights there are two large air intake slots.

The sills incorporate a light strip in Matrix LED technology which again emits white light when the driver approaches the technology study with the remote control key. When the car is driving in piloted mode, this is signalled by blue horizontal lines lit up down its sides. Mirroring the front configuration, the rear lights likewise consist of two elements. Each of the upper zones features nine red OLED units that handle the tail light function, with three more below.

The interior design is as visually engaging as the vehicle’s exterior, but again, demonstrates clever and practical use of space. Audi’s reputation for outstanding interiors is in safe hands with a vehicle that comfortably accommodates five adults and 500 litres of luggage.

Again, technology plays a major role, with two small sensors scanning the items of luggage and displaying the optimum loading order on a monitor mounted on the rear cutout.

The three large displays in front of the driver are designed using OLED technology – their wafer-thin films can take on virtually any shape. There are also two touch displays in addition to the central Audi virtual cockpit curved OLED. The driver controls the lights and the systems for piloted driving with the left one. The large display on the right is for managing media and navigation, and also displays the drive system’s operating statuses. The steering wheel serves as a further control level. Its spokes are equipped with contoured touch surfaces.

The selector lever for the driving mode is mounted on the console of the centre tunnel. In front of it, there are two further OLED displays – for the drive status, the air conditioning and for freely programmable information functions. The front one offers gesture controls. The curved displays in the front section of the doors serve as digital exterior mirrors.

The two rear passengers sit on individual seats and can share data with the driver via the Audi tablets (a derivation of the system available in the new Q7 and A4), which again have OLED displays. The tablets are designed as a mobile Rear Seat Entertainment system. 

Inspiring and exciting, but what is perhaps most compelling about the h-tron quattro concept is that it is not a vision of a distant future, but one that is just around the corner.