BMW’s Hydrogen Car getting closer to becoming a reality

BMW i, News | March 28th, 2016 by 44
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It’s no secret that BMW is fond of hydrogen fuel cells as an alternative to gasoline or pure battery electricity. The Bavarian brand’s fondness of …

It’s no secret that BMW is fond of hydrogen fuel cells as an alternative to gasoline or pure battery electricity. The Bavarian brand’s fondness of hydrogen has been met with heavy criticism by proponents of pure BEVs (Battery Electric Vehicles) such as the Tesla Model S and Chevrolet Bolt. However, those detractors have not yet, and probably will not, sway BMW’s opinion on Earth’s most abundant resource.

BMW has toyed with hydrogen fuel before, developing a hydrogen 7 Series a while back and, more recently, a hydrogen i8 prototype. Much of BMW’s continued interest in hydrogen fuel has to do with its connections with Japanese automaker, Toyota, who is also very fond of hydrogen and has been working with it for 23 years, longer than anyone else in the industry. Toyota is pushing for hydrogen hard and BMW is following suit. But it isn’t just the BMW/Toyota bromance that’s considering hydrogen as a serious long-term solution. Honda, Audi and General Motors are also working on hydrogen technology. So clearly, BMW is on to something.

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The biggest problem with hydrogen fuel cell technology is one of the same problems that pure BEVs face — infrastructure. At the moment, there is not a large enough hydrogen refueling infrastructure to make mainstream hydrogen cars a viable option. However, that doesn’t mean there can’t be or shouldn’t be. According to Craig Scott, national advanced technology manager for Toyota, “We didn’t go from horse drawn buggies to Ferraris overnight, so let’s keep perspective in mind and know this is a transformation and it’s a phase change and we are not expecting results tomorrow, but in the next decade or two,”. And Toyota is putting its money where its mouth is and is working on building a network of hydrogen refueling stations across the East Coast, including New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Connecticut. If Toyota can get some help from BMW, as well as other automakers, and maybe even from local governments, such a hydrogen network can become quite vast and useful.

Now, many detractors will claim that building a hydrogen infrastructure is a waste of time, money and resources, as we could be spending those on building an EV charging infrastructure. And while there’s a valid point to that, Toyota, BMW and the other companies out there feel as if there’s room for both alternative fuel technologies in the future and they will both play a serious role so both are worth investing into. BMW’s head of fuel cell development, Merten Jung told Digital Trends “We expect that battery-electric vehicles and fuel cell-electric vehicles will co-exist in the future, and plug-in hybrids are a simply a temporary solution until we get to that point.”

A lot of the reason for this need for both has to do with the “refuel” times and range of both technologies. Currently, it’s very difficult for automakers to create batteries that have a range of over 200 miles without stuffing the car with a million batteries that increase the weight to the point of just being inefficient. It’s why BMW is working on smaller, higher capacity batteries and lightweight cars, such as the i3. Then there’s the issue of recharging electric vehicles, as it takes far too long. Even on fast chargers, it can be a couple of hours to fully recharge a car’s batteries. That’s just far too long to be convenient on a large scale. But hydrogen cars typically have a range of around 300 miles and can be refueled in three to five minutes, hardly any longer than a gasoline car. So it would fit our current lifestyle far easier and be more usable for long-distance driving than an electric car.

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BMW seems to be moving forward with hydrogen fuel cell technology and is very serious about it. It also seems that other automakers are following suit and that a hydrogen refueling infrastructure is closer than originally anticipated. If all of those other automakers are in on both hydrogen and BEV technology and feel that there’s a distinct and important place for both in our automotive world, there must be something to that. The day when we see a hydrogen car and pure BEV in BMW’s lineup doesn’t seem too far away anymore.

[Source: Tech Insider]

44 responses to “BMW’s Hydrogen Car getting closer to becoming a reality”

  1. CDspeed says:

    They aren’t fond of hydrogen, they’re partnered with Toyota over it. And like Toyota they are falling behind in electric car tech, even Chevy is ahead with an affordable 200 mile electric car.

    • owen says:

      Really? and what? how many people want battery cars? i have never seen battery car on the way only in dealership. Batteries is sh*t and only tesla fanboys advocates them. Normal people (95-99%) want normal cars and FCV cars are normal without stupid cables, expensive fast charging station and long recharging time.

      • Bert says:

        I see battery electric vehicles almost every day. I see plenty of Tesla’s, Volts, and Leafs where I live, and I don’t even live in California or anywhere that people like to show off how green they can be. What I couldn’t possibly see is hydrogen vehicles. You can’t even fuel them within 800 miles of where I live.

        • CDspeed says:

          And you know Toyota’s Mirai when full holds about $65.00 in hydrogen, my i3’s total battery capacity is the equivalent of $2.80 worth of electricity. I live on east coast of the US, and the infrastructure is great, and I see a lot of plug-in cars, I’ve already spotted the Model X a couple of times.

      • CDspeed says:

        If you don’t know anything about electric cars, why bother commenting? They are much easier to own, and charge, then anything that gets fuel from a pump, that I have learned from firsthand experience.

      • jo says:

        30% of efficiency is rated “normal” boy thats the problem of mankind: stupidity.

      • iDriver says:

        Some global event over the last few days seems to have answered your question about how many people want battery cars! In less than a week, 300 K people from all kinds of countries around the world are willing to pay for a reservation of a future BEV with 200/300 miles range (depending on version) and performance at par or better than BMW M models. BMW should draw some conclusions as it is always and ultimately the customer who decides. The argument that there is no demand for BEVs has just been proven wrong – regardless of any of the efficiency or green arguments around BEV vs. FCV. And it can be done at a price below an average BMW 3 series, which has less performance and high tech than the Model 3.
        The road to FCV is full of holes and will cost a lot of money – but most importantly, there is no realistic scenario that FCVs will be a viable mass-market consumer alternative (cost and performance wise) before 2020 (as BMW has also admitted repeatedly), at which point many long range BEVs will be sold by different brands already.
        But of course, Blackberry and Nokia did also not see Apple as a serious smart phone competitor back in 2007 …

  2. 181 says:

    Oddly dismissive of the the very real criticisms of hydrogen. Infrastructure isn’t the only reason h2 sucks.

    Hydrogen is and always will be far less inefficient than BEVs: http://www.energy-without-carbon.org/sites/default/files/Hydrogen%20vehicle%20efficiencies.jpg

    Also charge times are not “several hours” for Tesla cars that use a proper 120 kW charger. The rest of the EV world has no one to blame but themselves for putting in dinky 50 kW chargers (some are even 25 kW!). Still, this is far easier to fix than building million dollar hydrogen filling stations.

    The Model S with its “heavy batteries” that get lighter with each revision of the battery tech already beats ALL other production cars in a straight line of any fuel time today. It’s not a road coarse, but then again who is driving to work on a race track?

    I’m already spoiled by charging at home. No way I’m going back to having to go to a filling station for hydrogen.

    Boondoggle.

    • johnbl says:

      Spoiled puts it mildly..let them generate h2 on my roof then I might see some value in it..until then I only see an agenda that “fuels” business for dealers and alternative fuels at gas stations…and why haven’t gas stations installed EV charging units. BMW is wasting resources that could be better used for BEV development.

      That’s why Tesla gets a grand from me on Thursday…total commitment to BEV development.

    • Outside Lane says:

      From the original article:

      “The cost and the weight of an EV mainly depend on the size of the battery; if you have a small battery, electric makes more sense than hydrogen. The break-even point is 300-400 kilometers (186-248 miles). Beyond that, hydrogen makes more sense because you only need to make the tank larger. It’s not rocket science, and it’s not very costly. The cost is in the fuel cell itself.

      With an electric vehicle, if you want to go beyond 300-400 kilometers you need to make the battery pack bigger, heavier, and more expensive, and you’ll reach a certain point where it won’t make sense anymore. The breakover point is pretty set in stone, too, because we’ll be making a lot of progress in both battery technology and hydrogen drivetrains over the coming years.”

      Merten Jung, BMW’s head of fuel cell development

      So you know more about EVFCEV economics than his is?

      • Mike333 says:

        It’s a Friggen BOMB.
        ISIS will LOVE these cars.

      • 181 says:

        Yes because he’s completely ignoring these things:
        1. Hydrogen costs MORE than gas and electricity (in most places) costs LESS. Solar is effectively free post-install.
        2. Electrolysis is and always will be less efficient than simply storing that electricity in a battery. Conversion between hydrogen and electrify has losses. Physics doesn’t lie!
        3. Tesla exists today, and the Supercharger network is real. Hydrogen has already lost!

    • barbaro says:

      Even scientists thinks that hydrogen is future so do not bother.

    • jo says:

      you mean “less efficient” instead of “less inefficient”.

  3. Chris Llana says:

    Last year Toyota’s Senior VP Bob Carter admitted it would cost $50 to fill the tank of their Mirai hydrogen fuel-cell car, enough to go 300 miles. He said that could eventually drop to $30, as the economies of scale of a built-out refueling infrastructure were realized. But you can go the same 300 miles in a Tesla Model S for $11.

    • Outside Lane says:

      Based on what I have learnt past two months that can change dramatically next couple of years. There are literally hundreds of projects to create hydrogen by solar and water. The estimated price is already less than 3 $ / kg but then seller adds his profit. One of the project is especially interesting since they plan to create hydrogen less than 1$/kg on demand. If it is a scam I don’t know but if true then FCEV are valid option in the future!

      • Bert says:

        Hydrogen from electrolysis can’t ever cost less than 3x as much per mile as an electric vehicle. That’s because the process requires 3-4x as much electricity as charging an electric vehicle for the same range. I’ve never seen any study indicating a $3/kg cost ever being feasible, even if you go the cheapest route, distributed methane reformation.

  4. jimmy says:

    Finally. I’m waiting all time for FC car from BMW. Lexus prepares new luxury FC car so BMW must accelerate in R&D and give us first FC car. I see a lot of battery fanboys here.

    • Bert says:

      Where do you live? You may be waiting a lot longer than you think if you don’t live in California. Hydrogen stations are very expensive and no-one is jumping at the chance to be the one to pay for them.

      • jimmy says:

        Do you know anything about demand/supply? if more FCV cars will be available more gas stations will build infrastructure for FCV cars because money. Show me where is this revolution with battery cars? government subsiding these cars and…. people dont want them. So where is it? battery cars is crap.

        • Bert says:

          Will there be that much demand when BEVs are significantly narrowing the refuel and range gaps, which are the only two advantages that fuel cell vehicles really have compared to battery electrics? Will the gap be enough that people are willing to pay 3x as much in fuel costs instead of just lengthening their occasional road trip by a half hour or so? To be clear, 3x the fuel costs is really the best case scenario for fuel cells. We’re currently closer to 7x the fuel costs. If people are willing to pay those kinds of costs, then there’s no reason that Tesla can’t bring back the battery swap stations, which swapped the battery in a minute and a half for the same price you would currently pay to refuel a hydrogen vehicle.

          The only way we’ve got any hydrogen stations is from the government massively subsidizing them so far. At this point, no-one wants to pay $1 million+ per station to build them. For comparison, the Tesla supercharger stations cost around $100,000 per station to build.

          As I’m sure you will see in two days time, there are plenty of people who want electric vehicles. Tesla has been supply limited since they first released the model s. How could this be if no-one wants electric vehicles? What does remain to be seen, is if anyone wants hydrogen vehicles enough to actually buy them.

          • jimmy says:

            Lool… are you sure that in future for maybe 5-10 years hydrogen will be not cheaper? I see that you dont know anything about demand/supply. If demand raise, productions costs going down.

            “The only way we’ve got any hydrogen stations is from the government massively subsidizing them so far.” lol, dont be hipocrite. Actually bev cars sell just because they are subsidizet.. lol… 3-4 months ago i saw news about Denmark where goverment want to stop subsidize electric cars and you know what? Elon Musk was the first guy who cried because “prices of electric cars increase 2-3 times” so dont be hipocrize because as you see BEV cars sell only thanks to subsidies… lol.

          • Bert says:

            Will hydrogen fuel get cheaper than it currently is? Almost definitely. Will hydrogen fuel ever get cheaper than three to four times the price of fueling your car with electricity? Almost certainly not. Will hydrogen ever get within twice the price of charging an electric car? I’m not a betting man by any means, but I would definitely put money on never for this scenario. If you’re using electrolysis, you need 3-4 times as much electricity to separate the hydrogen from the water as you would need to fuel an electric car. Methane reformation is currently cheaper than electrolysis, but I’ve never seen any study that would put it at a price that’s competitive with electricity.

            Do not misunderstand my subsidy argument. I am not complaining that they currently get subsidies. I am using it to further my infrastructure argument. Eventually, both technologies will have to stand on their own, without subsidies. Electric cars are just about ready to do that. However, I’ve not seen any car companies that are ready to pay for the extremely expensive hydrogen infrastructure. They’re even having a hard time finding people to pay for the remaining costs after the government pays for quite the significant portion of the costs. If we can’t find companies willing to pay for the hydrogen stations when the government is covering most of the costs, then how on earth do you think we will find someone willing to pay those costs once the subsidies go bye bye?

            Also, Denmark is a unique case. Do you know anyone who wouldn’t cry foul if they had to pay 180% in taxes on a car? Suddenly the average new car runs $87,000 instead of $31,000.

  5. Mike333 says:

    I thought BMW was run by engineers. There’s no way an engineer would spend one German Mark on this bull. Ok, one Euro.

  6. Artur Bodera says:

    I’m so disappointed BMW … another overcomplicated, proprietary, inconvenient and impractical attempt at electric cars, while Tesla has proved over and over that the technology is already here – actually has been since the invention of electricity, just waiting for industrialization and economies of scale kicking in. What a waste of time and money, BMW :-(

  7. M. Reda says:

    In the last 30 years so much research were done in Germany and Canada for the practical use of Mg-Hydride as a source of hydrogen in Hydrogen powered cars. This means that one can go to wall-mart and buy a sheet of Mg-Hydride and shove it in the back of your car. Your car is good to go for 400 Km. This is because Mg-Hydride can release hydrogen when heated around the operating temperature of the fuel cell (around 60 to 90 degree C). One problem was that these researchers who are trying to improve the efficiency of Mg-Hydrides as a hydrogen storage material were worried about reversibility of Mg-Hydrides. Who cares about reversibility. Use the sheet of Mg-Hydrides, then give it to a recycle company to hydrogenate the spent Mg-Hydrides.

  8. M. Reda says:

    These people from BMW are extremely car-full. Playing around with hydrogen gas is not something anybody can do.Hydrogen molecule is the smallest and most abundance. Smallest means it has very high diffusion rate which rise exponentially with temperature.Smallest molecule means it can go through walls ( metal or alloys) undetected just like an invisible molecule.

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