We're still not sure that fuel cells are the answer.
There's been a great deal of attention lately on battery-electric vehicles such as the BMW iX, but we should remember there's another type of EV technology out there: hydrogen fuel cells. Enter the BMW iX5 Hydrogen, which we first reported on last spring. Prior to that, the German automaker confirmed plans to launch a hydrogen fuel cell version of its popular SUV for the 2022 model year. And here it is. Almost.
Before a wider release, BMW has announced the iX5 Hydrogen will not only be on display at next month's IAA Mobility 2021 show in Munich, Germany, but will also be on hand for visitors to take a ride in.
The goal is to demonstrate the technology for those still unsure of how fuel cells work or, perhaps, are even skeptical of anything that's not internal combustion. Its overall exterior styling isn't drastically different than that of the standard X5 but there are some design cues to link it to the i brand such as a tweaked kidney grille, 22-inch aerodynamic wheels, and blue-trimmed exterior features like the rear apron.
There are also 3D-printed mesh inserts covering the air openings up front. You'll also find "hydrogen fuel cell" badges on the instrument panel and door sills. Total electrical output comes to 170 horsepower but thanks to an electric motor that also serves as a generator, the stored energy can increase output to as much as 374 hp.
A total of 13.23 pounds of hydrogen is stored in a pair of carbon fiber-reinforced tanks. Total refueling time takes a maximum of four minutes. Another unique feature are the sustainably produced Pirelli tires. According to BMW, it is the only automaker in the world to use tires made entirely from certified natural rubber and a wood-based material called rayon.
Along with BMW, Toyota and Hyundai view hydrogen fuel cells as another viable powertrain option for vehicles alongside battery electrics. Of course, a proper refueling infrastructure would be required, something that's lacking in the US right now, with the exception of California.