So much for the electric car revolution…
For all the buzz about the Volkswagen Group's push for electrification so it can wipe the public's mind free of the Dieselgate scandal, there was one problem all along: that maintaining a grip over the natural resources needed to make batteries is a tough thing to do. The supply of materials like cobalt - which are needed to make the most popular form of battery, the lithium-ion battery - are located in unstable countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, making supply chains fragile at best. With the demand for lithium-ion batteries exploding given consumer demand for smartphones, laptops, and gadgets like wireless headphones-without even mentioning the bevy of electric cars in the pipeline from the world's automakers-Autocar has found that Audi is taking the step of insuring itself against a battery deprived future by renewing its efforts to develop a hydrogen car.
The news comes from one of Audi's chairmen, Bram Schot, who mentioned that the company's aim to diversify its alternative powertrain portfolio is a way to avoid the consequences of a battery shortage as well as to better serve customer demands by making range anxiety and the high cost of electric cars a thing of the past. Being the brand the Volkswagen Group chose to test alternative powertrains with, Audi is looking to restart its h-tron program. "We really want to speed it up," said Schot. "We are going to put more priority into hydrogen fuel cells – more money, more capacity of people and more confidence." The fruits of this labor may come to the table (or the stage of an auto show) later this year in the form of a fuel cell prototype.
Such a car would be Audi's sixth-generation hydrogen fuel cell prototype, which may eventually morph into a low-volume production vehicle by 2021 that would be leased out to customers in certain markets, much like the Toyota Mirai is today. Aside from the prototype and subsequent low-volume model, Audi is keeping talk about timelines to a minimum. All it says is that large scale production wouldn't happen any time before 2025. Audi has the advantage of having formed a partnership with Hyundai last year to work on hydrogen vehicles, and given that Hyundai already builds the hydrogen-fueled Nexo, the Four Rings can license the tech for use in its own vehicles. As exciting as this sounds, we're not quite sure how to digest the news given that no one has really seen what a world ruled by electric cars even looks like….yet.