This hydrogen fuel cell powered BMW X5 SUV you see here has been around in multiple iterations since 2019. It was presented back at Frankfurt 2019 as the BMW i Hydrogen NEXT concept.
It was then shown as the BMW iX5 Hydrogen at IAA Mobility 2021 in Munich, where it was also available for visitors to experience in action as a shuttle vehicle. It continued to evolve and to this point today where finally after four years of development, a pilot fleet of almost 100 vehicles will be deployed for trial purposes across various target groups.
The BMW iX5 Hydrogen’s hydrogen fuel cells is supplied by Toyota, another major investor in hydrogen fuel cell cars. This is no surprise really, considering BMW and Toyota are partners in other projects such as the BMW Z4-Toyota Supra project.
The fuel cell stack in the iX5 Hydrogen is capable of generating 170 hp (125 kW) from hydrogen while emitting nothing but pure water. The power output might sound a little low to you, but it’s not the only thing providing power in this vehicle.
You see, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles like this iX5 Hydrogen are technically range extender hybrids. It is still an electric vehicle with batteries and moves with an electric motor, but instead of a petrol or diesel engine running as a generator to recharge the battery, the hydrogen-powered fuel cell does it.
Full output of the electric motor in the iX5 Hydrogen is 401 horsepower, enough to take it from 0-100km/h in under 6 seconds. Since the fuel cell can only output 170hp, the balance power is provided by the lithium ion battery, which can supply 231hp. This battery can also be recharged by the electric motors running in reverse through brake energy recuperation. We presume if the lithium battery is low on charge, the motor won’t be able to provide all 401 horses, instead being limited to whatever the fuel cell system can provide.
The hydrogen is stored in two 700-bar tanks made of carbon fibre reinforced plastic. These tanks can store 6 kg of hydrogen, which BMW says can give the iX5 Hydrogen a range of 504 km on the WLTP cycle. Refuelling the hydrogen takes only 3-4 minutes, which would be convenient for a long journey.
That is, if you can find a hydrogen station along the way. We can’t imagine a future where infrastructure for both battery EVs and hydrogen fuel cell EVs will be built extensively, but BMW board member Frank Weber says hydrogen fuel cell technology is not as dependent on critical raw materials like cobalt, lithium or nickel, so investing in this technology ensures BMW Group has strengthened ‘geopolitical resilience’.
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