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9 Cool Things to Know About the Audi h-tron Concept

A talk with Audi’s head of electrified powertrain development.

Unless you're an alternative-powertrain nerd or an Audi geek of the highest order, it would have been easy not to know that the Audi h-tron concept the four-ring brand rolled out onto its stand at the 2016 Detroit auto show is utilizing the fifth generation of Audi's hydrogen fuel cell technology under its shiny yellow hood.

Siegfried Pint, Audi AG's head of electrified powertrain development responsible for the e-tron and h-tron concepts, has been on the leading edge of Audi's hydrogen-powered efforts from its first Audi A2H2 supermini up to the h-tron. The h-tron is the culmination of a decade's worth of efforts, and from our vantage point, it's closer than ever to an actual production model.

Pint also had a huge hand in the Audi e-tron concept that debuted at last year's Frankfurt show. The e-tron and h-tron are similar in exterior look and execution. Both are boxy, midsize crossovers that foreshadow the coming Audi Q6.

Not surprisingly, Pint said the electric motor configuration of the e-tron is similar in scope to the h-tron, but there are obvious packaging differences given the powertrain setups.

Here's what Pint says sets the Audi h-tron apart from the crowd.

• The h-tron utilizes what amounts to an electrified version of quattro all-wheel drive through the use of two electric motors, a 90-kilowatt unit that drives the front wheels, and a 140-kilowatt motor at the rear. "Outstanding performance from our point of view," says Pint.

• Total system power of the h-tron is 210 kilowatts, with 405 lb-ft of peak torque. That's 110 kilowatts from the fuel cell stack and a boost of up to 100 kilowatts from its lithium ion battery pack. (The Toyota Mirai's total system power is 114 kilowatts and 247 lb-ft.) "It's an efficient car on one side, on the other hand it's a very emotional, sporty car," says Pint.

• Like the Mirai, the h-tron's hydrogen storage tanks are triple lined with polymer laminates and store hydrogen at 700 bar (about 10,100 psi). Unlike the Mirai, the h-tron uses three tanks instead of two, with one of the three up front underneath the car's center stack.

• Fueling of the h-tron only takes four minutes, which is on par with filling up a gasoline powered car. "It's the key advantage," says Pint.

• Total range is an estimated 372 miles to a fill-up (the Mirai is EPA rated at 312). The only range anxiety in this case is where to find a station.

• The h-tron can reportedly hit 60 mph in less than 7 seconds. We're not 100 percent sure, but we think it's the fastest hydrogen powered vehicle. Pint drove it: "From a driving impression, it's very much a pure electric car."

• The h-tron's hydrogen fuel cell stack is 25 to 30 percent smaller than before, and operates at a 95 degree stack temperature. "That makes the package much better. Less coolant components means a better package with more space," says Pint.

• Freaking lasers! All major lighting functions inside the cabin of the h-tron are illuminated using matrix laser technology, helping to create OLED displays that render 2D displays in a 3D effect.

• The h-tron's parking aid and piloted-driving features are essentially what will be employed on the forthcoming all-new Audi A8. Audi says that at speeds up to 37 mph in stop and go conditions, the car will be essentially able to drive itself.