Most of the major auto groups’ recent efforts to align with sustainability demand have rested on electric battery models. While the world is focused on electrical technology, some brands, including BMW, are showing interest in hydrogen fuel cell technology. In September 2019, BMW presented its BMW i Hydrogen NEXT concept at the Frankfurt Motor Show. The Bavarian manufacturer has now confirmed that it will offer a road-approved version of the BMW X5 with hydrogen fuel cell technology in 2022.
Since 2013 the Munich manufacturer has been working with the Toyota Motor Corporation on fuel cell technology. Together, the companies have presented a prototype and initial details for a fuel cell system for the powertrain for its i Hydrogen Next concept car. The development of fuel cells comes from Toyota, while BMW will take care of their assembly, and that of the engine.
The i-Hydrogen NEXT generates about 125 kW (170 hp) of electric energy from the chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen from the ambient air. This means that the vehicle emits nothing more than water vapor. The vehicle is equipped with two 700 bar tanks that can hold six kilograms of hydrogen together. BMW promises great autonomy (which is not specified) regardless of the weather conditions, as well as an estimated refiling time between 3 and 4 minutes – so much shorter than charging electric batteries.
Complementing the fuel cell system, the BMW iX3 debuts its fifth-generation electric eDrive powertrain technology, which is powered by a 74 kWh battery pack. The peak power battery positioned above the electric motor injects an extra dose of dynamics when overtaking or accelerating to boost the car’s power to 275 kW (374 hp).
Although the technology is already in place, the company says, it will be some time before the company offers its customers a production car powered by hydrogen fuel cell technology. The BMW i Hydrogen NEXT will be piloted in a small series based on the current BMW X5 that the BMW Group plans to present in 2022.
The X5 hydrogen is a pilot model, but there is a good chance that BMW will introduce hydrogen cells on a massive scale when all conditions are met for the introduction of hydrogen-powered cars on the market. The company is using the time until the infrastructure, and sustainably produced hydrogen supply are in place to substantially reduce the cost of manufacturing the powertrain system.