Ballard IP to boost Audi’s fuel cell developments

February 11, 2015 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
Carmaker Audi gets serious with alternative drive technologies: The company has acquired a set of fuel cell patents from Canadian fuel cell expert company Ballard Systems Inc. At the same time, the carmaker has announced to extend its development collaboration with the Canadians through 2019.

With the move, the development of hydrogen fuel cell drives at Audi gets more momentum. And since Audi is part of the Volkswagen group, the same likely holds true for other brands of this group like Bentley, Seat and Skoda. "Audi acquires these strategic patents for the entire Volkswagen group and makes them available for all other brands within the group. This secures decisive expertise for us and will generate new impulses for further development of the fuel cell technology," commented Audi development top manager Ulrich Hackenberg who also is responsible for the development management across the entire VW group.

Though Daimler is widely regarded as the technology leader among the European carmakers in the area of hydrogen fuel cells (and Toyota in worldwide comparison), the topic is not entirely new to Audi. During his speech at the company's general shareholder meeting on May 22, 2014, Audi CEO Rupert Staller announced that company will emphasize the development of alternative drive technologies to meet the CO2 fleet emission target of 95 grams CO2 or less per kilometre. In this context, he said that alternative drive technologies, including fuel cells, will contribute 30% to this goal.

In November, 2014, Audi introduced its first fuel cell-based prototype, the A7 sportback h-tron Quattro. The fuel cell of this vehicle offers 170 kW; the car is said to have a driving range of 500 km - significantly more than available battery electric vehicles. The fuel cell stack consists of more than 300 cells for a total voltage of 230 to 360 V. According to Audi, the fuel cell features an overall efficiency of up to 60%, more than twice the efficiency of a state-of-the-art combustion engine.

Audi is also active in the production of hydrogen: Since 2013 the company runs a pilot plant to generate hydrogen. The installation uses electric power from wind turbines to produce hydrogen through electrolysis. Currently this hydrogen is fed into