BMW has started production of hydrogen fuel cell systems for its next-generation BMW iX5 Hydrogen model, with the first vehicles set to hit the road for testing later this year.
Built at BMW’s competence centre for hydrogen in Munich, the FCEV powertrain consist of a fuel cell, two hydrogen tanks and a fifth-generation BMW eDrive electric motor.
It’s all used in tandem with a high-performance battery, in the architecture for the existing BMW X5. The German car maker will use individual fuel cells supplied by Toyota, with which BMW has collaborated on hydrogen powertrains since 2013.
BMW will then fit other components, including wiring harnesses, compressors, and anodes and cathodes.
Oliver Zipse, BMW chairman, said: “As a versatile energy source, hydrogen has a key role to play on the road to climate neutrality. And it will also gain substantially in importance as far as personal mobility is concerned.
“We think hydrogen-powered vehicles are ideally placed technologically to fit alongside battery-electric vehicles and complete the electric mobility picture… By commencing small-scale production of fuel cells today, we are demonstrating the technical maturity of this type of drive system and underscoring its potential for the future.”
The BMW iX5 Hydrogen produces a total of 368bhp. Around 167bhp comes from the bespoke hydrogen fuel cell system. BMW says its hydrogen powertrain will offer a “unique form of drive system for the premium segment.”
The BMW iX5 Hydrogen was tested earlier this year in winter conditions in Sweden and makes use of several new technologies, including a high-speed, turbine-powered compressor and a high-voltage coolant pump.
BMW says it has vastly improved the efficiency of the fuel cell system following years of research and development.
Frank Weber, BMW board member, said: “We have managed to more than double the fuel cell’s continuous output in the second-generation fuel cell in the BMW iX5 Hydrogen, while weight and size have both decreased drastically.”
Just 100 BMW iX5 Hydrogen cars will be produced initially. They won’t be sold but they will be used by drivers who will test them in everyday conditions in the US, Japan, Europe, China and South Korea.