The Audi e-tron quattro concept paves the way for a forthcoming battery electric vehicle from the German marque. (credit: Jonathan Gitlin)

It's rumored that Audi will use next month's Detroit auto show to unveil a sister car to the e-tron quattro that we saw up close in Los Angeles last month. Dubbed the Q6 h-tron by Autocar, the new alternative fuel SUV will use a hydrogen fuel cell. Audi has registered h-tron as a trademark and some journalists have sampled an A7 h-tron. Whether or not the fuel cell rumors pan out for Detroit remains to be seen. But what is certain is that electrification is going to be a significant theme for Audi in the coming years, as we found out recently when we sat down with Filip Brabec, director of product management for Audi of America, and Siegfried Pint, head of Audi's electric vehicle powertrain development.

Although it's tempting to see Audi's push towards electrification as a response to the diesel emissions scandal plaguing it and Volkswagen Group stablemates, it's actually been in the works for quite a long time, Brabec told Ars. And it goes beyond just developing EVs—it requires an investment in infrastructure, something that Tesla and its network of superchargers has made quite evident. Brabec was bullish about the his company's progress here: "fewer than 10 [Audi] dealers across the United States have signed up to the E-ready program" of installing EV chargers, he said.

The next step will be to offer customers a compelling product, Brabec said. "We wanted to go into a volume segment, and develop a car with mainstream appeal. An SUV is the right place, and the C-segment [for mid-size SUVs] is the right place. We're not looking to sell five cars in an obscure state. What we want is a car that's marketable, that's desirable, that people want to buy," he told us. What's more, don't expect radically styled EVs that look nothing like conventional cars. "Developing an EV isn't the easiest or cheapest, so you want mainstream appeal," he said, possibly signaling an end to the "Prius effect."

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