What’s Next After EVs? Hydrogen-Powered Cars, Of Course

BMW X5 for Sale

BMW Begins Testing of its Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Version of its Crossover SAV

BMW has begun real-world tests of the i Hydrogen Next, an X5 paired with EV and hydrogen tech. BMW announced recently that it has started testing its hydrogen fuel-cell version of the BMW X5 crossover SAV, trying it out on European roads ahead of a small-batch production run for 2022.

The BMW i Hydrogen Next made its debut at the 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show. The hydrogen SUV (aka SAV or Sport Activity Vehicle as BMW calls them) meshes a Toyota fuel-cell stack with fifth-generation electric-motor tech from BMW’s latest battery-electric cars.

Total system output is 374 horsepower, according to Green Car Reports. That comes close to the output of its most powerful gasoline inline-6 engine aside from the M performance models. The output is achieved using both the fuel-cell stack, which produces 170 hp, as well as a battery buffer – which kicks in when accelerating or “overtaking”, according to the website.

Hydrogen-Powered Cars

This is How it Works:

Hydrogen is stored in two cylindrical tanks, including one that runs down the vehicle’s centerline. (The other sits under the rear-seat area and is made from carbon fiber-reinforced plastic). A refill takes just three to four minutes, BMW says.

The i Hydrogen Next is expected to be a low-volume model, but BMW appears committed to fuel cells for the long haul, according to media reports. This comes in an era when major auto manufacturers in general have backed off from the notion of creating fuel cells in passenger cars.  For instance, Toyota and BMW are collaborating on hydrogen cars. BMW planning to launch the i Hydrogen Next in the coming year.

The i Hydrogen Next will undertake only limited production, as BMW plans to devote more energy to EVs in the coming years.

An electric BMW sport utility is on the way in the form of the iX, and a hydrogen fuel-cell BMW is now on the way as well.

The testing that began in June and is attempting to tune the  software controlling the car’s driving and operating functions, according to BMW. That’s taking shape in the form of static tests of the fuel cell system and hydrogen tanks.

BMW says it is also attempting to get practical experience using this drivetrain in real-world conditions.

The i Hydrogen Next pairs BMW’s eDrive technology already found in existing vehicles like the iX3 with a hydrogen fuel cell technology developed along with Toyota—one of the other major players in this field.

The vehicle itself is largely based around architecture and tech taken from already rolled out vehicles, rather than being a model developed from scratch.

Hydrogen-Powered Cars BMW X5

The SUV’s 374 hp is the same as the most powerful inline-six gas engine in the automaker’s lineup, BMW points out.

“The energy stored in the performance buffer battery is generated in a particularly efficient way during driving by recovering energy from coasting overrun and braking phases,” the automaker says. “The hydrogen needed to supply the fuel cell is stored in two 700-bar tanks made of carbon-fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP), which together hold six kilograms of hydrogen. Its precisely controlled reaction with oxygen in the fuel cell generates electricity, while water vapor is the only emission produced by the drive train.”

BMW has been experimenting with hydrogen fuel cell technology for decades and will continue to do so, the German automaker said in a statement.

In fact, developing alternative powertrain technologies is a top priority for the BMW Group. The premium carmaker recently reaffirmed its commitment to following a carefully considered and systematic route to emission-free mobility.

“This approach also includes the careful consideration of differing market and customer requirements as part of the company’s Power of Choice strategy. Customer centricity and the flexibility needed for this are essential in facilitating the breakthrough for sustainable mobility on the global stage.”

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