Audi to speed up hydrogen fuel cell research

The company aims to launch a pilot program in the early 2020s.

Audi's product road map calls for the launch of up to 12 battery-electric models by 2025. The company is spending a tremendous amount of money on the development of electric cars, but it's also putting an increasingly big focus on bringing hydrogen-powered vehicles to the masses in a timely manner, its chief executive confirmed.

"We really want to speed it up. We are going to put more priority into hydrogen fuel cells - more money, more capacity of people, and more confidence," said Audi CEO Bram Schot, according to British magazine Autocar.

The publication explained Schot is investing more time, money, and people into developing hydrogen-powered cars because his team is increasingly worried about sourcing the natural resources required to mass-produce battery packs for long-range electric cars. Minerals are a finite resource, like oil.

Hydrogen-powered cars offer several advantages: they normally require a smaller battery pack, they offer a longer range, and they can be refueled in a matter of minutes. Audi will unveil its sixth-generation hydrogen powertrain in a prototype scheduled to make its debut before the end of the year. One of the major advancements is that users will be able to charge the battery pack by plugging it into a charging station. Previously, the pack only received electricity from the fuel cell.

The technology hidden under the sheet metal will find its way into an experimental prototype that customers will be able to lease by 2021. The program will help Audi gather feedback and real-world data about its hydrogen powertrain as it marches towards series production, which could begin during the second half of the 2020s. By that point, the fueling infrastructure will hopefully have improved to the point where commuting in a hydrogen-powered car is feasible.

The German automaker isn't alone in its quest to bring fuel cells to the masses. In 2018, it teamed up with South Korea's Hyundai to co-develop certain aspects of the technology. The two companies notably pledged to cross-license patents and give each other access to non-competitive components.

Note: 2016 Audi h-tron concept pictured.

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