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Audi Developing A7 Powered by Fuel-Cell Technology

Audi’s technical chief, Wolfgang Dürheimer, disclosed to UK publication, Autocar that the company has been developing a fuel-cell powered A7. It’s believed that it will part of Audi’s new ‘tron’ range of sustainable technologies and trials are said to begin at the end of August.

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Fuel cells generate electricity and heat through an electro-chemical reaction between a fuel and oxygen. In automotive applications they typically use hydrogen as the fuel and oxygen from the ambient air, so the only by-product is water.

The electricity produced can be used to charge a battery, or to directly drive electric motors for propulsion, while the waste heat can be captured for thermal systems or additional electricity generation via thermocouples.

Back in 2009, Audi tested the Q5 HFC which is also fuel cell version of another of its models, which used two high-pressured cylinders of hydrogen to power twin electric motors.

Since the only by-product emission is water, fuel cell vehicles are effectively zero (toxic) emissions vehicles and this fact is highly desirable from an environmental perspective. In addition, fuel cell vehicles can be refueled quickly, unlike electric vehicles, which take time to charge. But their current costs are highly prohibitive and the lack of an established hydrogen infrastructure may be a stumbling block.

A recent study by Navigant Research titled “Fuel Cell Vehicles” forecasts worldwide sales of FCVs will reach the 1,000 mark in 2015 and then begin a period of strong growth, surpassing 2 million vehicles annually by 2030.

Alternative fuels – including hydrogen and natural gas – are of particular interest to Audi and will remain so until battery technology improves and charging infrastructures expand.

Jun 14th, 2013