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Audi’s First Ever Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Car Makes Waves

Image via Flickr by Torsten Mangner

Image via Flickr by Torsten Mangner

Audi debuted their A7 Sportback H-Tron concept car at the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show, introducing a working hydrogen-powered automobile. In 2015, Audi brought attention back to its remarkable A7 Sportback H-Tron with an enticing ad. The car is a killer concept with great environmental implications, but whether Audi and other automakers can make hydrogen a viable fuel remains to be seen.

Hydrogen Power and Electricity

The A7 Sportback H-Tron does not take gasoline as fuel. Instead, the tank fills up with hydrogen. Instead of an engine, the car has dual hydrogen fuel cells underneath the hood. This car goes 310 miles on a tank that’ll never see a drop of gas. The tank holds 11 pounds of hydrogen, and with the proper conversion (2.2 pounds of hydrogen provides the energy content of a gallon of gas) the car gets an equivalent mileage to 62 miles per gallon. In the rear, Audi backs up the hydrogen performance with a lithium-ion battery which can run the car on its own for 31 miles.

Performance Without Gasoline

Audi is known for creating cars that are sporty and luxurious at the same time. For sports car diehards, a slight loss in power due to the new hydrogen technology might be a bit disappointing. Its performance is considerably better than many of the typical fuel-efficient cars on the market, and one can only imagine the improvements Audi will make in future models. The A7 Sportback H-Tron has 228 horsepower and 398 pound-foot torque. It’s an all wheel drive model with a max speed of 112 miles per hour.

Audacious Advertisements

Audi’s advertisement for the car features it disappearing into a puff of steam. The commercial is both an understated addition to automaker advertisements, and an overt metaphor about the car’s emissions. Audi’s A7 Sportback only emits water vapor when driven, and that image of the car disappearing into vapor marries perfectly with the eco-conscious car itself. Get enough of these on the road, the ad seems to say, and the only thing you’ll have to worry about is the humidity. Nobody will be disappearing in a cloud of smog anymore.

The Potential Downfall

If this car sounds too good to be true, it has a serious downfall. Hydrogen is not available in quantities anywhere near high enough to make it feasible to mass-produce this car. Plus, where would people fill it up? Parking lots and gas stations may offer electric charging stations now, but nobody offers hydrogen refueling. Currently, the car is not for sale to the public, and until these rather significant problems are solved, it probably won’t be available except very sparingly. Audi already figured out how to store hydrogen, which used to be a serious problem with building these cars. Maybe Audi and other automakers can solve the other problems, too.

If Audi and other companies solve the problems surrounding hydrogen-fueled cars, drivers may see a new kind of hybrid hitting the roads in the near future. Otherwise, the concept will disappear into the ether just like it does in the ad.