BMW has stated its ongoing commitment to hydrogen fuel cell technology, the BMW i Hydrogen NEXT project, a collaboration with Toyota dating back to 2013, is set to continue. The project recently shared its first 'virtual insights' in the form of computer-generated images. It's all part of its 'Power of Choice strategy' whereby BMW is developing differing options for the future customer – "there is no single solution" is the mantra. This flexibility will allow BMW a foot in both future mobility camps – hydrogen fuel cell and battery electric – should the axe ultimately fall in one direction or the other, or somewhere in between. It's the VHS versus Betamax argument all over again...
Unlike its speedy roll-out of battery electric vehicles, BMW admits that it will be "some time" before we see a new BMW production car powered by hydrogen fuel cell technology and emitting nothing but water vapour.
It thinks we will first see hydrogen being used by long-distance transport, HGVs for example, which will in theory accelerate the infrastructure issues – an extensive Europe-wide network of hydrogen filling stations is lacking at present. Nonetheless research continues, and initial technical details of the BMW i Hydrogen NEXT powertrain reveal that it generates up to 125kW (170hp).
The fifth-generation eDrive unit set to make its debut in the BMW iX3 is fully integrated into the BMW i Hydrogen NEXT. The battery positioned above the electric motor injects an extra dose of performance when overtaking or accelerating. The total system output is 275kW (374hp) . The hydrogen fuel cell electric powertrain will be piloted in a small series based on the current BMW X5 that BMW plans to present in 2022. It'll be the second half of this decade at the earliest before we see a series produced customer proposition.