BMW Will Give Hydrogen Another Go With 374-Horsepower Fuel Cell Crossover

The Bavarians are set to make their most serious foray into hydrogen power yet, but will the market bite?

BMW

Persistent obstacles keeping automakers from fully adopting battery-electric vehicles have led to the consideration of other eco-friendly powertrain types, like the long-vaunted and equally troubled tech that is the hydrogen fuel cell. Still one of hydrogen's believers, BMW announced Monday morning that it has committed to producing a limited number of fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) crossovers starting in 2022.

BMW

BMW stated that the vehicle, which will be an X5-based crossover called the i Hydrogen Next, will bear the fruit of its FCEV technology partnership with Toyota, whose own hydrogen-powered Mirai sedan will argue the fuel cell's case in America. This crossover "will be piloted in a small series" starting in 2022, and BMW says it could make a followup offering available to a wider audience by 2030 if FCEV development continues to show promise.

The fuel cell powertrain itself works by drawing elemental hydrogen from a pair of tanks rated at over 10,000 psi, capable of holding 13.2 pounds of hydrogen together. In the fuel cell, this hydrogen reacts with atmospheric oxygen to produce water and energy, which combines with the juice stored in a lithium-ion battery to give the i Hydrogen Next a maximum of 374 horsepower.

BMW

"The fuel cell system for the powertrain for the BMW i Hydrogen NEXT generates up to 125 kW [170 horsepower] of electric energy from the chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen from the ambient air [on its own]," said BMW's Vice President of Hydrogen Fuel Cell Technology and Vehicle Projects, J├╝rgen Guldner, in a release. "This guarantees a long range regardless of the weather conditions, and refueling only takes three to four minutes."

BMW states that it will continue to rely on its technical partner Toyota to help it bring FCEV powertrains to market, which in turn will require both companies to find a way to make the tech more production-friendly. That means increased modularity and scalability, each of which will allow the same components to be tailored to a wide variety of products at a minimal cost. Toyota maintains that FCEVs could rival fossil-fueled vehicles on cost within decades, though infrastructure to support widespread fuel cell adoption may prove costlier to deploy than BEV charging networks, potentially slowing consumer uptake.

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