BMW will enter the fuel cell market early in the next decade, says R&D boss

BMW i, News | October 13th, 2016 by 16
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In his talk at the 26th Aachen Colloquium Automobile and Engine Technology, Klaus Fröhlich, Member of the Board of Management at BMW AG, Development, reinforced the brand’s commitment for zero-emission mobility through the use of hydrogen fuel-cells.

“BMW will enter the fuel cell market early in the next decade, starting with very small production runs,” Fröhlich said. “However, until 2025 at least costs will remain too high and the hydrogen infrastructure too sparse to allow broad-based market penetration. By the time the fundamentals are in place, the BMW Group will also have marketable products ready that are attractive to customers.”

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As the BMW boss outlines, the key benefit for customers of fuel-cell drive systems is their short refueling time – which is similar to that offered by vehicles with conventional combustion engines. What is lacking here, though, is the requisite hydrogen infrastructure and production set-up, and cross-sector partnerships have been launched to accelerate the process of establishing such an ecosystem.

Large-scale manufacture of hydrogen fuel-cell technology will become viable in the course of the next ten years, says the BMW R&D boss.

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Brands like Toyota and its Toyota Mirai model have already made significant progress in this field. BMW is also going strong with their fuel cell technology, thanks to an agreement signed with Toyota in 2013. Just last summer BMW invited us to France at their secret facility in Miramas to sample the first iteration of a 5 Series GT prototype equipped with the hydrogen fuel cell technology.

The vehicle is based on a regular BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo and uses a 245hp electric motor and high-voltage battery, similar to the ones used in BMW’s eDrive and i Division plug-in hybrids. A tunnel tank, used to store hydrogen, is mounted in between the two axles.

READ ALSO: BMW 5 Series GT Hydrogen Fuel-Cell – First Drive

While the Toyota Mirai can travel around 435 miles (700 kilometers) on a single hydrogen fueling, BMW said it was developing a vehicle which would travel further, using compressed hydrogen. Some of the main benefits for this FCEV hydrogen fuel cell technology are the size and range.

16 responses to “BMW will enter the fuel cell market early in the next decade, says R&D boss”

  1. cros13 says:

    What a terrible waste of time and resources.

    • Bjørn Tofte Eng says:

      What a stupid thing to say. Half the population can’t charge at home. Hydrogen is the solution to that problem.

      • cros13 says:

        How is Hydrogen the solution to that? It takes basically as long to refuel a H2 vehicle as it does to rapid charge an EV. They can’t go any further. There is already a massive electricity grid in every developed country with plenty of spare capacity outside of a 15-20 minute peak. If you need streetside charging just put chargepoints on utility/light poles and charge consumption to the household bill of the cars owner.

        Every way of producing hydrogen is drastically less efficient (three to five times at a minimum) than just using electricity to charge a battery or burning the natural gas in a combined cycle power plant and then charging a battery. Running a H2 vehicle would also be 15-20 times the cost of running my current EV (based on the current price of a kg of h2 on the open market). Then we have: cost of H2 infrastructure, cost of fuel cells (currently as much as 110% of what Toyota and Honda are selling the car for), safety issues with both the fueling stations and cars, leaks and losses in distribution, inferior power output to a BEV’s pack. And for what? You get a car that has no advantage over a BEV in refueling time, range, efficiency performance, production cost or running costs.

        But what would I know, I’m only an engineer who’s worked with both technologies. Fuel cells work in certain very specific situations, they are not suitable for passenger transport. I drive 55,000km+ annually in my primary EV and I’ve actually been in the situation where I lived in an apartment with no home charging. FCEVs are a scam, pure and simple. An attempt to deceive regulators, consumers, governments and even sometimes self-deception on the part of the automakers.

  2. Johan Mo says:

    Yes, such a waste of time. Toyota might become the next Kodak. Please BMW, stay away from hydrogen. People don’t want it, just governments because they can add taxes to the fuel, unlike with electricity.

    • IfSlashWhen says:

      Nonsense, I have a Mirai and I have a BEV, and there is no comparison. Fuel cells are vastly superior to batteries.

      • Sander says:

        Now, maybe, not in 2025 with the current rise in battery capacity (+50% every 3 year) and with 300kW quick charge (which you will hardly need given the range per charge by then).

        • IfSlashWhen says:

          Fuel cell technology is stunningly better now (312 miles range wit a powertrain that weighs 1000lbs less than the equivalent range P100D. There is no foreseeable lithium technology that can match that specific energy in the next 30 years, let alone 10 years from now. Fuel cells are in full coat reduction engineering now and they’ll be considerably lower cost in 10 years (i.e. a $12,000 fuel cell car will be feasible in 10 years)

          • Sander says:

            I’m sure you’re correct, but it doesn’t matter. Both battery capacity and charge capacity (and battery costs) are perfectly fine in 2025.

            If I extrapolate i3 capacity, 18kWh 2014, 28kWh 2017, 42kWh 2020, 63kWh 2023, 95kWh 2026. And that is conservative: Telsa already offers 100kWh and Opel 60kWh.

            Besides, you just cannot eliminate the energy loss converting to and from hydrogen.

            And don’t forget the convenience of home charging, the use of home produced cheap solar energy, and being independent of the oil industry.

      • One-Of-A-Kind says:

        You should contact John V. From green car reports and request an interview, as a driver of both.

      • CDspeed says:

        Yeah, now go on a trip outside of California.

    • One-Of-A-Kind says:

      If fuel taxes get diminished, they will regulate your annual miles and based on vehicle weight, that will become your road usage tax during vehicle registration time .

      The idea of just not paying for the roads as your main benefit / argument doesn’t make any sense.

  3. CDspeed says:

    BMW has gotten far too entangled with Toyota, adding a BMW sticker to a Formula E car means nothing. I’ve got an i3 that I can fill up at home, and they expect me to wait a decade just to end up back at the gas station again. I’m glad I ordered a Model X.

  4. Bob Morane says:

    “What is lacking here, though, is the requisite hydrogen infrastructure
    and production set-up.”

    Well, nothing is lacking for BEVs, it is just about improving. Big difference between lacking and improving.

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