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by Matt Campbell

German luxury brand Audi has revealed a new technological concept vehicle at the 2014 Los Angeles auto show – the Audi A7 h-tron quattro.

The Audi A7 h-tron quattro is a hydrogen-driven electric vehicle that the company says showcases how a fuel-cell vehicle could form part of its line-up.

The h-tron utilises a 130-litre hydrogen fuel cell that is said to offer the vehicle a range of 550 kilometres. Audi says the four aluminium and carbonfibre tanks can be refilled in just three minutes.

Audi A7 h-tron_10

Not only can it be refilled with hydrogen – which is very limited in its infrastructure at this point in time – it can also be charged using a plug-in facility for the car’s lithium-ion battery pack. The brand claims the car can be fully recharged in two hours.

Total system output is 172kW and 540Nm, enough for Audi to label this show car the first “sports hydrogen” vehicle ever made. Indeed, it will hit 60 miles per hour (96km/h) from a standstill in 7.8 seconds, and has a top speed of 180km/h.

Speaking with CarAdvice at the 2014 Los Angeles auto show, Dr Ulrich Hackenberg said the showcar is “a true Audi” in that it brings technological innovation to a new level, but he admitted the brand will only build a hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle if the market wants it.

Audi A7 h-tron_3

“What we are demonstrating with this car is that we are prepared for hydrogen cars as well. So depending on how the market is going and how the infrastructure is growing, then we are prepared to have an offer for our customers,” Hackenberg said.

“But we will not push infrastructure by ourselves; we want to demonstrate we are ready,” he said.

“The philosophy is that we are intending to present a performance car. So these fuel cell cars are looking for a CO2 reduction, we are looking for both – for CO2 reduction, but also for emotion.

Audi A7 h-tron_2

“Emotion means performance, fun of driving – so we have a lot of power, and we create the power based on the fuel cell for the constant driving, and based on a strong, performance-oriented battery for the peak power.

“It’s a boosting [function],” he said. “We have the potential to have a lot of torque, fast from the traffic light for example. Very good acceleration. That’s our concept, how we want to infuse that into another dimension.”

Hackenberg stated that Audi won’t go it alone when it comes to hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

Audi A7 h-tron_1

“We are a very big group, the Volkswagen Group. Volkswagen has to be in front of all technologies and that’s what we are presenting here.

“We are working in good collaboration with all the brands at Volkswagen, especially Volkswagen brand and Audi brand are close together. We have a good process to share technologies, for example … that’s the reason we are able to do this, and … we can work in parallel.

“I think there’s a competition between the fuel cell and the next-generation of battery vehicle cars. The performance of battery cells is increasing extremely – I think for the future it will be possible to have 500km in passenger cars with batteries. But we want to see which technology is the winning one. We can’t see the answer right now, so we are prepared for both,” Hackenberg asserted.

Audi A7 h-tron_6

“We are demonstrating that our technology has a high standard … you can drive the car outside on the road. We will bring cars to the market, depending on the market. Depending on how far we can do that. So if the market is asking for that, if the customer is there, we will do it.

“But we won’t do it for demonstrating our innovation capability, also,” he said.

“The first market will be the market with an infrastructure. California is a good opportunity; Germany is far behind,” Hackenberg said.

Audi will introduce an updated version of the Audi A7 in Australia in 2015 – but don’t expect hydrogen to form a part of the range. It will instead consist of petrol and diesel drivetrains.