Whether BMW can get the price right is the next big question.
With the recent launch of the BMW iX3, the fully electric version of the X3, BMW drove home the message that its vehicles will be underpinned by flexible platforms that can play host to gas, diesel, hybrid, or electric power. This has benefits both for the manufacturing process and for differing customer preferences from market to market.
Now, there's confirmation that another popular BMW SUV, the X5, will also be offered with alternative power. Instead of electrification, though, Bloomberg reports that a new version of the X5 will run on hydrogen fuel cells. Called the i Hydrogen NEXT, it's set for a limited production run in 2022.
We first saw the hydrogen-powered X5 at last year's Frankfurt Motor Show and knew then that the hydrogen technology was developed in collaboration with Toyota. In a statement, Chief Executive Officer Oliver Zipse referred to the technology as having "the potential to become another pillar in the portfolio of BMW." Emitting only water vapor, refueling takes just three to four minutes and a total system output of 374 horsepower is in the cards.
The news comes as other manufacturers are also looking beyond electric vehicles. For instance, Jaguar Land Rover is at an early stage of working on its own hydrogen-powered vehicle. The Hyundai Nexo is already here, but it isn't available outside of California. The problem, as in the Nexo's case, is the price - fuel cell technology remains expensive.
But perhaps buyers shopping in the luxury segment, where the X5 finds itself, will be more willing to pay top dollar for the benefit of zero emissions and far quicker refueling than is the case with the average EV. In Germany, a new $8.1-billion plan to bolster that country's hydrogen industry is further proof that hydrogen-powered vehicles are not off the table yet at all, despite the fact that the European-only Mercedes-Benz GLC F-Cell was canned earlier this year.
Hopefully, the use of the technology in a model as respected as the BMW X5 will improve consumer trust in it. We'll find out if that's the case in a couple of years.