But it won't be for the masses. Yet.
BMW will soon launch the all-electric iX SUV in the US market. Powered by two electric motors producing 496 horsepower, the iX will carry BMW's most advanced drivetrain in North America; but it won't be the company's most advanced drivetrain globally. Last year, BMW said it would build a hydrogen fuel cell version of its popular X5 SUV. Those plans for a small series of vehicles based on the 2021 BMW X5, called the BMW i Hydrogen NEXT, are on track for 2022.
The Bavarian brand's Lightweight Construction and Technology Center (LuTZ) in Landshut, Germany will produce components for the i Hydrogen NEXT, with installation taking place in Munich. BMW hosted a "Hydrogen Technology Day" in Germany, showing off the upcoming hydrogen model. The i Hydrogen NEXT looks mostly like an X5, but with a unique livery, blue wheels, a different grille, and a new bumper with no exhaust pipes.
"I am convinced hydrogen technology will gain traction, and I am committed to making Bavaria a high-tech location for hydrogen technology. This is a constructive way of responding to the climate debate," said Hubert Aiwanger, Deputy Minister-President of Bavaria. "The focus now is on building a hydrogen infrastructure at the national and international level, from production to application."
Hydrogen vehicles are better suited to drivers who travel long distances compared to battery electric vehicles. Refueling in a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle takes just a few minutes, whereas charging an EV might take several hours. BMW says it plans to build only a few examples of the i Hydrogen NEXT, but none will go to customers. The company says it needs to see significant improvements to the hydrogen infrastructure before it puts such a vehicle on sale.
We hope BMW finds a way to put the i Hydrogen NEXT into production because it seems like a best-of-both-worlds approach to an environmentally friendly vehicle. It uses the same fifth-generation e-drive electric motor found in the iX3, producing a substantial 374 hp. If this model ever came to the US market, it would likely only be available in California, which has a limited number of hydrogen stations. The Hyundai Nexo and Toyota Mirai are currently the only FCEVs on sale in the US.