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Due to lethargic advancement in the battery pack, Audi has announced it will move much of its research and development into plug in hybrids. If the hybrid battery technology ever manages to extend its range, the automaker will reconsider its move. Unfortunately, it’s believed it could be another decade before the battery tech passes muster, giving EVs any semblance of normal mobility. Normal is considered between 400 and 500 kilometre.
The Tesla Model S premium grand tourer has that range capability. Yet, that EV is in a class by itself. The average EV of comparable price and size to Audi’s Nissan Leaf has a typical range in the 200km area.
At the recent motor show in Frankfurt, a board member for Audi’s technical development division said the manufacturer will lean its attention toward petrol-electric cars like their A3 plug in e-tron. These vehicles take a lithium-ion battery and a petrol engine that performs as a back-up generator. The A3 is capable of 50km in electric mode. It can do in the vicinity of 600km with the engine.
Ironically, this decision contrasts what Volkswagen plans. Audi’s parent company is moving into the EV market with its e-Golf and e-Up, a duo of compact autos engineered for fleets and megacities in China and Europe. They have also announced their desire to become the EV world leader, stepping over the competition, which includes Renault, Tesla, Nissan and BMW. The goal is to accomplish this by 2018.
When battery energy density has improved, two future Audi drive mechanisms are likely hydrogen fuel cells and EVs, which will only emit water. This is a tech that automakers like Hyundai and Daimler have aggressively pursued. Hyundai’s potential in this arena is highly regarded. As Kloster Group states, they have consistently engineered innovative, award winning models that meet the expectations for driving today and tomorrow. Their determination in research and development in the auto industry is recognised for its quality and value.
Though the car manufacturer has made no note of record, Audi actually tested hydrogen fuel with the A7 limousine. It has been said there were shortcomings in the basic infrastructure. There was also trouble cooling gas to make a liquid for transportation.
So for now Audi has decided battery and hydrogen technology aren’t to go-to for their product.
There has actually been some dissension as to whether hydrogen or battery operated cars are even the best tech for low carbon transports. The fact is the two technologies are mutually beneficial in the energy saving vehicle field. Hydrogen and battery technology have properties that benefit different areas of the transport sector. Ideally, the two would work best for the industry if they were combined into hybrid systems, diminishing the limits each holds by itself.
Hydrogen can be pulled from many sources, including renewable electricity, biodiesel, fossil fuels or any raw energy feed stock. Electric vehicles are considered more effective in an urban environment, where stops, starts and slow driving require better performing fuel cells. Each has its greater advantage. Hydrogen has the capacity to extend speed, power and range. Batteries promise to maximise acceleration where it’s needed most and facilitates braking. Together, these power sources would make the perfect fusion vehicle.
Until that is possible, large hydrogen or hydrogen battery vehicles are fit for long journeys. The smaller EV would be utilised around town. Some hydrogen cars are capable of as much as 10s of kilometres on a battery, good for short drives.
Some hydrogen-battery hybrids have various types of batteries to battery only power. Still, the development of these power sources and battery management systems would be favourable to both. Downstream of fuel cells or batteries, the technology to the vehicle remains the same. Likewise the downstream tech of hybrids. Increasing deployment of fuel cell, battery or hybrid systems can justify mass production and improvement of downstream technologies.
In a perfect car manufacturing world, batteries and hydrogen would be approached as symbiotic, not separate or competing tech. There should be an objective to coordinate mutual beneficial development of both technologies. Unfortunately, a lot of manufacturers – including Audi officers – believe hydrogen and battery technology are in a competition.
Audi believes the next step is doubling the EV’s average range to at least match the Tesla. It may take another decade though before the electrochemical tech is developed and ready for production.
For now Audi will continue to push research and development into plug in hybrids while waiting for battery improvement that will allow EVs greater mobility.