BMW Reveals its Vision of a Hydrogen Future

BMW has revealed its vision of a hydrogen fuel cell powertrain solution for its future products.

The BMW i Hydrogen Next concept powertrain generates up to 166bhp while it stores around 13lbs of liquid hydrogen in two 700 bar tanks to claim a “long Range” albeit no claimed figures have yet come from the automaker. The fifth-generation eDrive unit set to make its debut in the BMW iX3 is also fully integrated into the vehicle.

The peak power battery positioned above the electric motor injects an extra dose of performance to boost overtaking or accelerating. The total system output of 370bhp should put it in the realm of BMW’s sporting vehicles currently on the market.

The carmaker says this powertrain will be piloted in a small series based on the current BMW X5 that the BMW Group plans to present in 2022. A mass market-ready product will be available at the earliest in the second half of this decade depending on the global market conditions and requirements.

BMW has created the powertrain in close collaboration with fuel cell pioneer Toyota. The two manufacturers have joined forces to work on fuel cell powertrain systems and scalable, modular components for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles under a product development cooperation agreement.

However, while BMW believes in the long-term potential of fuel cell powertrain systems, it accepts that it will be some time before the company offers its customers a production car powered by hydrogen fuel cell technology. It says this is mainly because of the lack of infrastructure needed to be in place.

Klaus Fröhlich, member of the board of management of BMW, research and development, said: “In our view, hydrogen as energy carrier must first be produced in sufficient quantities at a competitive price using green electricity. Hydrogen will then be used primarily in applications that cannot be directly electrified, such as long-distance heavy duty transport,” said Klaus Fröhlich.

However, he added: “We are convinced that various alternative powertrain systems will exist alongside one another in future, as there is no single solution that addresses the full spectrum of customers’ mobility requirements worldwide. The hydrogen fuel cell technology could quite feasibly become the fourth pillar of our powertrain portfolio in the long term. The upper-end models in our extremely popular X family would make particularly suitable candidates here.”

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in London. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_

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