Details of the fuel cell technology was first revealed in 2020 in the BMW i Hydrogen NEXT fuel cell development vehicle, based on the current generation BMW X5. It was later revealed as the iX5 Hydrogen at the 2021 IAA Mobility motor show in Munich and was originally expected to go into production by 2022 as a small-scale pilot project.
“We have various projects with Toyota and believe hydrogen fuel cell technology is particularly relevant for larger SUVs,” said Pieter Nota, BMW’s board member for sales and branding.
Hydrogen combines with oxygen in the fuel cell, located where the engine used to be, to produce electricity to drive the car with water being the only emission. As detailed before, the fuel cell in the iX5 produces a maximum of 170 PS (125 kW) of energy, all of which is sent to a rear electric motor via an electric converter underneath the fuel cell. There’s also a peak power battery that draws its power from the energy generated by the fuel cell and from brake recuperation, sending more electricity when needed.
Together with the electric motor, the pair produces a combined output of 374 PS (275 kW). The motor works with a single-speed transmission, which is a setup familiar to the BMW iX3, iNEXT and i4. The fuel cell’s 700-bar tanks can hold up to six kilograms of hydrogen and takes just three to four minutes to fill up. According to BMW, a full hydrogen tank can offer up to 480 km of driving range.
Alongside the announcement, BMW will reportedly accelerate its shift toward electric vehicles. The company is aiming for 50% of its groupwide sales, including MINI and Rolls-Royce vehicles, to consist of electric cars by 2030. On that note, the company also lamented that the sale of petrol-powered vehicles, including hybrids, is still expected to make up half of BMW Group’s sales in 2030.
BMW’s decision to focus on hydrogen is driven by the hurdles that remain for EVs. Nota pointed out that “infrastructure is not the same everywhere” and the lack of availability of necessary materials as reasons.
“We do believe in the importance of various technologies — battery electric vehicles, also hydrogen and efficient combustion engines — because we don’t want to put all our investment in one area,” he said.
GALLERY: BMW iX5 Hydrogen