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Volkswagen Group puts spotlight on fuel cell knowledge at LA

Debuted as Toyota and Honda also revealed their fuel cell models at the show, Audi's A7 Sportback h-tron Quattro features a 100kW fuel cell stack which enables it to cover a claimed 310 miles on one tank of fuel whilst only emitting water.

This is combined with a hybrid battery and an additional electric motor in the rear, with Audi saying that the high-performance battery makes the ideal partner to the fuel cell, enabling the model to store energy recovered from brake applications whilst giving impressive acceleration.

The model also brings an electric version of Audi’s Quattro four-wheel drive, with electric motors at the front and rear axle. In the event of slip, the torque for both driven axles can be controlled electronically and adjusted continuously.

‘The A7 Sportback h-tron quattro is a genuine Audi – at once sporty and efficient. Conceived as an e-quattro, its two electric motors drive all four wheels,’ explained Prof Dr Ulrich Hackenberg, Member of the Board of Management for Technical Development at Audi. ‘The h-tron concept car shows that we have mastered fuel cell technology. We are in a position to launch the production process as soon as the market and infrastructure are ready.’

Meanwhile, Volkswagen displayed the Golf SportWagen HyMotion at LA, highlighting its strategy of implementing alternative drives in high-volume production vehicles. This uses the same fuel cell stack as the Audi, with the same driving range, and also features a high-voltage lithium-ion battery, which stores the kinetic energy recovered from regenerative braking, assists in the starting phase of the fuel cell and boosts maximum acceleration. The fuel cell and battery drive an electric motor adapted from the e-Golf, allowing the car to reach 62mph in 10.0 seconds.

VW said that the model demonstrates for the first time how a hydrogen fuel cell could work with the modular transverse matrix (MQB) architecture as soon as research and development work has been completed and a solution could be developed with an acceptable price. This is also of course dependent on the creation of a hydrogen infrastructure.

The carmaker added that future fuel cell drives would also be integrated into production models that have been optimally engineered and are offered at an attractive price, as with the all-electric e-Golf and the Golf GTE with plug-in hybrid drive. As such, a fleet of Passat HyMotion vehicles – which use the same drive components as the Golf SportWagen HyMotion – is currently being tested on the streets of California.

The carmaker added that the Golf ‘is the world's first car to offer all drive types that can be implemented today’, with the line-up offering TSI petrol engines, TDI diesels, a TGI natural gas drive, the e-Golf electric drive model and the GTE plug-in hybrid drive.

Natalie Middleton

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