Audi officials have verified that the carmaker is ready to begin building a production hydrogen fuel car and is waiting only for key signs to indicate the time is right.

“Audi is poised to go into volume production with fuel cells as soon as the market and public infrastructure justify this move,” the company said this week.

Engine compartment on A7 Sportback h-tron quattro

Engine compartment on A7 Sportback h-tron quattro

With this announcement, Audi joins a parade of manufacturers buzzing about future fuel cell vehicles (FCVs). Within the last month, Toyota, BMW and Nissan are a few of the carmakers discussing their FCV strategy. In addition, Honda has confirmed that its new Clarity FCV will be released to the U.S. next year.

During its November Future Performance Days event, Audi said development of its hydrogen technologies have been in the works for a while.

“Audi has been working on fuel cell concepts for more than ten years now,” the company said. “The first technology demonstrator was the compact A2H2 in 2004, which was already equipped with a polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cell (PEM) – the ideal in this technology. It had a 110 kilowatt (kw) electric motor, and a nickel-metal hydride battery served as a buffer.”

“The Audi Q5 HFC (Hybrid Fuel Cell) followed in 2009,” Audi said. “Its PEM fuel cell had an output of 90 kw and was supported by a compact lithium-ion battery.”

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Details haven’t been confirmed on Audi’s upcoming FCV. But it’s likely that the company will base a production version on the A7 Sportback h-tron quattro, a concept FCV shown a year ago in Los Angeles.

A7 Sportback h-tron quattro

A7 Sportback h-tron quattro

“It is the first fuel cell car with quattro drive,” Audi said of the A7 Sportback h-tron. This drive gives the car a “decisive advantage over its two-wheel-drive competitors with respect to traction, stability and handling. Separate electric motors drive the front and rear axles, respectively. With a peak output of 170 kw … the e-quattro drive provides for sporty performance with a top speed of 200 km/h (124.3 mph).”

Audi noted that it is working with other brands in the Volkswagen AG group, which includes Audi, to develop new materials for a more efficient fuel cell stack.

“The focus here is on new materials for the bipolar plates separating the individual cells in the stack,” Audi said of the HyMotion 5 Project. “These will make the fuel cell significantly lighter, smaller, more robust and more powerful. Additional strengths are easy cold starting, long service life, spontaneous response and low hydrogen consumption. The price should also drop because the proportion of costly components such as platinum in the fuel cell will decrease.”

To date, Audi has not indicated when it expects the market to be ready for its FCV.