BMW is still committed to fuel-cell tech.
BMW's i division is preparing to expand its EV family with the launch of the i4 electric sedan, which was recently previewed by the BMW Concept i4. However, BMW's i division is also exploring alternative powertrains. Since 2013, BMW has collaborated with Toyota to develop new fuel-cell technology. The project was previewed at last year's Frankfurt Auto Show with the debut of the BMW i Hydrogen NEXT, a fuel-cell-powered SUV based on the current BMW X5. Technical details were kept under wraps, however - until now.
According to BMW, the fuel cell system for the BMW i Hydrogen NEXT's powertrain generates up to 170 horsepower of electric energy from the chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen from the ambient air, meaning the SUV emits nothing but water vapor.
There are also two 700 bar tanks that can together hold 13 pounds of hydrogen, while refuelling only takes three to four minutes. In addition, the BMW i Hydrogen NEXT shares the same electric powertrain as the BMW iX3. Combined, this setup generates a total of 374 hp.
"We are convinced that various alternative powertrain systems will exist alongside one another in future, as there is no single solution that addresses the full spectrum of customers' mobility requirements worldwide," said Klaus Frohlich, Member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, Research and Development.
"The hydrogen fuel cell technology could quite feasibly become the fourth pillar of our powertrain portfolio in the long term. The upper-end models in our extremely popular X family would make particularly suitable candidates here."
This hydrogen fuel cell electric powertrain will be piloted in a small series based on the current BMW X5 that will be presented in 2022, but BMW admits it will be a long time before a consumer version is offered. The Bavarian automaker estimates that a production version of its hydrogen fuel-cell-powered vehicle will go on sale in the second half of this decade at the earliest, depending on the global demand. Toyota, on the other hand, produces the fuel-cell-powered Mira.