"In this decade there will be a viable product from BMW with hydrogen," said Oliver Zipse.
While BMW is committed to offering a variety of electric vehicles, the automaker hasn't given up on ICE engines and alternative energy just yet. In fact, the company will bolster its lineup with a hydrogen-powered car sooner than expected. "In this decade there will be a viable product from BMW with hydrogen," said Oliver Zipse to Top Gear. "You will see that."
Many companies have placed all their eggs in the electric vehicle basket, but BMW has looked ahead and realized this isn't feasible. There's a huge market for battery-powered models, but this comes with a caveat - some key areas don't have the necessary infrastructure to accommodate them.
Zipse understands this, adding, "we believe in hydrogen for many reasons. We believe that - and I'm speaking now from the BMW side but that ends up being for every brand in the Group - if you want to ride emissions-free and you do not have a charging station, this is the only possibility we have."
The automaker has been experimenting with hydrogen technology as far back as the 90s and even sold a hydrogen-powered 7 Series for a brief moment between 2005 and 2007. The Hydrogen7, as it was known, is a rare car with just 100 examples produced for politicians and similar figures.
More recently, however, the German brand has been readying a hydrogen-powered SUV for some time. While it may look like a regular X5, the iX5 runs purely on hydrogen. BMW says it offers the best of both worlds - the iX5 produces zero emissions on the move but, unlike an electric car, replenishing the tank takes just three to four minutes.
Mirroring what Zipse said, Sales Chief Peter Nota previously said fuel cell vehicles will hit the scene as early as 2025. Many believe that hydrogen, while admirable, simply isn't practical due to a lack of filling stations. "In some areas to implement a hydrogen infrastructure is easier than an electric infrastructure, for example in areas where you don't have any connection to a power grid," said Zipse.
He added, "For hydrogen, you just need the tank. There will be instances in this world where you have that situation. Will that be the main market? No, it will not." But will hydrogen power remain the reserve of BMW vehicles, or will it make its way through the wider group?
That remains to be seen, but the idea of a hydrogen-powered Rolls-Royce shouldn't be excluded. "I would never exclude anything," concluded Zipse. It's safe to assume the luxury brand and Mini will follow BMW in offering ICE-powered vehicles, electric cars, and hydrogen alternatives to various markets across the globe.
Of course, BMW isn't the only brand to believe in the fuel. Aside from myriad hydrogen-fuelled motorsport exploits, Toyota is reportedly working on a hydrogen-powered Corolla Cross.