BMW: Hydrogen fuel cell makes sense only above the 5 series

5-series | January 27th, 2017 by 54
BMW 5 series gt hydrogen fuel cell images 24 750x500

In 2015, BMW unveiled their vision of a future fuel cell-powered BMW. At their secret facility in Miramas, France, BMW let us test drive a …

In 2015, BMW unveiled their vision of a future fuel cell-powered BMW. At their secret facility in Miramas, France, BMW let us test drive a 5 Series Gran Turismo equipped with the new technology. At the time, the Munich-based automaker said that the biggest hurdle in the adoption of fuel cells is the infrastructure.

Today, even if there are already a handful of cars with a hydrogen fuel cell, the concept continues to be in its infancy. The main problem, just like a few years ago, is the extremely thin filling station network, which makes the use of a corresponding car very impractical for most customers. Compared to conventional cars driven by internal combustion engines and even to electric cars, the loading options are still so rare that many prospective customers have to say goodbye to the idea.

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However, even if the station network is one day expanded, the hydrogen fuel cells – from the point of view of BMW development board Klaus Fröhlich – does not make sense for all drivers. For the press, the chief developer said a hydrogen fuel cell platform only makes sense in vehicles above the 5 Series.

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The reasons for this are simple: a car with a fuel cell offers the possibility to cover extremely long distances, a requirement that doesn’t apply to most city drivers who can with an emission-free electric drive. Thanks to fast advancement of batteries, more and more electric cars will have a range of 400 kilometers or more, even without a fuel cell, which is more than sufficient for the customers in the compact class.

In 2021, BMW plans to launch a first small series production with a hydrogen fuel cell. An unrestricted range of appropriately equipped vehicles is planned for 2025.

Until the market launch of the first fuel cell BMW, not only the battery technology for battery-powered vehicles (BEV) will have improved, but the filling station network for fuel cells (FCEV) is also expected to have grown significantly. Several companies from the H2 Mobility initiative want to build at least 400 hydrogen filling stations nationwide by 2023. Although these are still significantly less than the currently around 14,000 service stations for petrol and diesel or the almost 3,000 charging columns for electric cars, compared to the currently about 30 hydrogen stations, it is a big step in the right direction.

[Source: Bimmertoday]

54 responses to “BMW: Hydrogen fuel cell makes sense only above the 5 series”

  1. Sander says:

    The problem with hydrogen for cars is the serious amount of energy loss converting electricity to hydrogen, and hydrogen back to electricity. For that reason alone hydrogen is much more expensive than a pure BEV.

    Other reasons hydrogen is much more expensive is the complex equipment required to create, store, provide and use hydrogen. And hydrogen requires one to go to a gas station instead of convenient home charging (with free energy provided by your pv setup).

    And while much smaller than a pure BEV, a hydrogen car still also contains batteries to store and provide electricity as a fuel cell cannot supply electricity at high rates.

    • Dig Deeper says:

      Most electricity comes from gas or coal. You needn’t convert electricity into hydrogen – use gas (methane) directly to create hydrogen. In doing so you have about a 30% efficiency advantage in practice than the average efficiency rate at which gas is converted into electricity. Because of this the hydrogen car and battery car are about equal in efficiency when gas is the origin source and all losses are accounted for.

    • Matt Stokes says:

      The objective I believe is to use waste heat from Nuclear power to break down Water into Hydrogen and Oxygen. So at least for making the hydrogen, it’s not energy “loss” as such, in fact it reduces waste energy from another process.

      As with most of the ideas around Hydrogen that I’ve seen, they offer benefits, but all of those benefits lay behind engineering obstacles. I think it’s interesting research and don’t have a problem for the manufacturers pursuing it – but I’m not sure it’ll ever be mainstream.

      • bdam says:

        Matt, you’re right. High temperature electrolysis is feasible, the technology exists, simulations give a 2.5€/kg end product. In theory a perfect idea to use the 67% of energy lost to vapor in a nuclear plant. But so far, the cast of nuclear engineers and executives is not yet ready to even consider the option. Making so huge amount of H2 available to the market is a different business (in terms of regulation notably) for electricity producers.
        However, if an hydrogen society emerges sometimes, the business case could change the paradigm. We’re far from this today. In the meantime, energy giants such as Engie are clearly betting on H2 to add flexibility to the grid (using electrolysers) and get value from stored renewable on the mobility or industry market. This is the sense of the Hydrogen Council announcement in Davos earlier this month. 13 industrial giants (Air Liquide, AngloAmerican, Engie, Shell, Total, The Linde Group, Alstom, Daimler, Honda, Hyundai, Kawasaki, Toyota): http://hydrogeneurope.eu/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/20170109-HYDROGEN-COUNCIL-Vision-document-FINAL-HR.pdf

  2. CDspeed says:

    No it doesn’t make sense at all, BMW is one of the brands that recently joined up with the oil industry to push this polished turd. I recently bought a Model X that is the size of BMW’s X5/X6, and I can go anywhere any time right now, instead of waiting nearly another decade………. or two.

    • Dig Deeper says:

      Try taking a winter highway road trip in a fully packed battery powered vehicle. Heat usage and sustained highway speeds absolutely demolish EPA estimated range.

      Because fuel cells project to be cheaper in the long run, the optimal vehicle will be a plug in fuel cell vehicle. 90% of driving will be covered by a ~15kwh or so battery pack, and for the times when 400+ miles of driving are needed the fuel cell will be there.

      • Bert says:

        ” fuel cells project to be cheaper in the long run”

        Just a reminder, I’m still waiting for your source to support that claim.

        • Dig Deeper says:

          Department of Energy

          Qualifying statement would be “for conventional range”, as cost comparison between the two is a function of requirements for on-board energy.

          • Bert says:

            Which DOE report predicts a final cost for hydrogen fuel cells and batteries? I must have missed it. What was the title of the relevant report(s)?

          • Dig Deeper says:

            Google doe hydrogen fuel cell cost. It’s right there

          • Bert says:

            Well, there’s half the equation, though I didn’t really see anything directly taking about a limit to the cost reductions that could be realized. Where’s the other half? Where are the predictions for the point where battery costs will level off?

          • Bert says:

            And where did that graph come from? I ask for several reasons.

            1) I’d like to see where the numbers are coming from that went into this graph.

            2) Tesla and GM are already right around the $200/kWh cost that this graph says we shouldn’t be hitting until we are producing 5,000,000 packs per year.

            3) I could throw random numbers in excel, create a graph, then post it in a comment. That doesn’t make it valid.

          • Dig Deeper says:

            The studies are referenced. Look at the dashed line, not just the bold one.

            Conversely, I would ask that you provide any projection from a reputable source showing that the cost of assembled li ion packs WILL NOT level off at a near term level of production volume.

          • Bert says:

            I’m not claiming they won’t. I’m saying we don’t know if they will or not. I haven’t seen any information that indicates whether they will level off in the short term or not. You’re the one trying to make a prediction on that matter. I am not pretending to have the information necessary to do so.

          • Dig Deeper says:

            I just provided 5 leading studies on the matter showing a plateau.

          • Bert says:

            You provided studies that have all been proven inaccurate. The real world battery prices are cheaper than what any of those studies predicted, so why are you staying by them?

          • Dig Deeper says:

            Look at the dotted line bud

          • Bert says:

            Tesla is below the dotted line bud.

          • Dig Deeper says:

            Not really, $190/kwh as reported was predicted to be achieved just south of 1 million units which the global annual market has already exceeded. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/93da40579a13417a85dc3fd49830a4cb2801e973a4ff8ef9eb7639685043ea07.png

          • Bert says:

            Even if we were to accept your claims that Tesla is following the dotted line, which we’re not, you still can’t draw a statistically relevant trend line from four data points that are all near the zero line on the X axis.

          • Bert says:

            Plus, that looks to just be a compilation of cost predictions from various. It doesn’t appear to directly consider what the minimum battery cost could be.

          • Dig Deeper says:

            It’s compiles cost by volume data… not sure exactly what else you would be looking for exactly. Ultra high volumes don’t favor li ion production due to inadequate supply.

          • Bert says:

            We already have much lower costs than your graph would expect us to have considering our current battery production volume. Considering this significant inaccuracy, such an outdated prediction should be taken with a grain of salt. Your graph is not consistent with real world results.

          • Dig Deeper says:

            Look at the dashed line doofus.

          • Bert says:

            Look closer at the dashed line…

            $190/kWh at a production volume of 84,000 packs/year falls firmly below the dashed line.

          • Dig Deeper says:

            There were 1.26 million battery electric vehicles sold in 2015 per IEA data.

          • Bert says:

            Panasonic has pretty much only sold as many battery packs as Tesla has sold electric cars. What LG Chem and Nissan have produced are fairly independent of the economics of Panasonic’s battery production thus far.

          • Dig Deeper says:

            The cells Panasonic is using in the teslas are very similar to those used in mass sold laptops and other electronics, there is most certainly a synergy there as well as in the establishment of a supply chain for raw materials for li based EV batteries in general.

          • Bert says:

            And? They’re certainly NOT similar to the batteries used in the other electric vehicles. Consumer electronics isn’t that big a battery market compared to electric vehicle batteries. It’s not anywhere enough to bump Panasonic up to the equivalent 1 million Tesla battery packs per year.

          • Dig Deeper says:

            You’re assuming the volume is based on a single manufacturer which isn’t the case

          • Bert says:

            Unless you’re seeing some huge decrease in raw materials cost, then other manufacturers aren’t having much influence. In fact, it would appear that Lithium prices have gone up in recent years, not down.

          • Bert says:

            To clarify, by not similar to other batteries used in BEVs, I was talking about the form factor and all that jazz, as I assume you were too.

          • Dig Deeper says:

            They are relying on a very similar supply chain to various materials and this is a big part of the cost reduction equation.

            And like I said with Panasonic the packaging and form factor and chemistry of the cells in these cars is only slightly modified from cells and packs they have been mass producing for years for electronics applications.

          • Bert says:

            The cost of at least some of the battery materials is going up, not down. The competition doesn’t appear to be helping reduce the material cost, which means they really aren’t factoring in to Panasonic’s cost reductions.

          • Dig Deeper says:

            Volume growth in demand and associated supply side investments most likely are driving material costs down.

            Cost reductions can come about by means of supply chain cost reductions, manufacturing cost reductions or technological evolution. As far as state of the art Li ion batteries are concerned, the long term prospects for major supply side cost reductions are bleak, as are major manufacturing cost reductions beyond what Tesla is predicting for their mostly automated heavily subsidized and investor funded gigafactory.

            Perhaps there will be a major technological evolution, but again this may present its own economic learning curve.

            All we can truly do is speculate and say that battery packs costing much below the $100/kWh range remain an uncertainty. Meanwhile conventional vehicles offer powertrains significantly below cost of this target for an range equivalency.

          • Bert says:

            Material costs aren’t down. Lithium costs have been rising in recent years and cobalt costs have been holding steady. From what I’m seeing nickel prices haven’t dropped and aluminum prices actually appear to have increased recently after a long decline (which is related to larger industries than batteries). If the suppliers are seeing cost savings from an increase of batter demand, then they certainly aren’t passing it on by lowering the cost they charge for their raw materials, so the affect of any such cost savings is basically non-existent to Panasonic, LG Chem, and the others.

            “All we can truly do is speculate and say that battery packs costing much below the $100/kWh range remain an uncertainty.”
            I’M GLAD YOU FINALLY UNDERSTAND!!!
            HOW LONG HAVE I BEEN TRYING TO TELL YOU THIS?
            YOU AND I DON’T CURRENTLY HAVE THE INFORMATION NECESSARY TO DO ANYTHING MORE THAN SPECULATE AT WHERE THE COST WILL LEVEL OFF!

          • Dig Deeper says:

            But there’s a higher confidence level that fuel cells can hit the projected cost, about the same confidence level as teslas gifafactory savings because they are the same thing

          • Bert says:

            “But there’s a higher confidence level that fuel cells can hit the projected cost”
            How does that make any sense when BEVs have already surpassed their projected costs? The confidence level that BEVs can meet the projected costs you listed in your graph is 100%. How can hydrogen be higher than that?

          • Dig Deeper says:

            Because it doesn’t depend on further innovation which is uncertain. It’s just like the gigafactory – the projection for the cost reductions that are the basis of billions of investment and we can have a fair confidence level because panasonic has endorsed the target and has put a lot at stake, so th projection is based on sound reasoning. With fuel cells several governments and car companies are investing an awfully lot of money to step toward large scale manufacturing. This too is based on sound reasoning and similar targets for performance and reliability of the vehicles have been met so I believe relatively low cost fuel cells are well within reach. To get an equivalent cost for the 100+ kWh battery pack that everyone will wants is less certain from my view.

            But hey I’m just someone talking on the internet. We will have to wait and see.

          • Bert says:

            Why do you say fuel cell cost reductions don’t depend on further innovation? Mass producing fuel cells at all relies on further innovation. To my knowledge they are all still partly produced by hand.

            How can we have a high confidence level about the future cost of fuel cells when we don’t even have a good idea what the y cost now?

            Automotive companies, on the whole, are investing an awful lot more in battery electric vehicles than they are fuel cells. With your logic, wouldn’t that mean we should have a higher confidence level in battery electric vehicle cost reductions than hydrogen fuel cell cost reductions? Automotive companies really haven’t taken any significant steps towards mass producing fuel cells so far.

          • bdam says:

            The calculations were made, and shared across the automotive industry. Just a simple example. A cell is made of bipolar metallic plates with a polymer and its catalytic inc in-between. Stamping a bipolar plate for hand made (few thousands cells a year) cost 32€. Stamping the exact same plates (without innovation) for 10.000 a year goes down to 7€ (German prices).
            That is economies of scale. Beyond that, the fuel cell industry has not yet really invested in the innovation, compared to what has been done for batteries, and certainly not in the manufacturing process. Although they have started, and they are investing more and more, following Toyota who leveraged last year $4 billions for its sole Fuel Cell investments. 4 times more than in the past 10 years. That’s a fact. An they’re not alone anymore.

          • Bert says:

            Costs can and will come down for both technologies, yes. However, that alone isn’t enough to make prepredictions how far the cost of either technology will drop when all is said and done. Dig Deeper claims he can make these predictions accurately based on the available data and he is incorrect.

          • bdam says:

            Hum, I think he is more showing trends than willing to make accurate predictions.

          • Bert says:

            There was this thing that started the whole conversation off:
            “Because fuel cells project to be cheaper in the long run, the optimal vehicle will be a plug in fuel cell vehicle.”

            If you want to make the case that he’s trying to show trends, then I’d tell you that I’m still waiting on him to provide the trend data related to hydrogen vehicles.

      • CDspeed says:

        Have you tried to take a winter trip in a fully packed electric car? And fuel cells are always projected to do something, but they never get there. Hydrogen is more expensive then gas or diesel, and none of them come close to being as cheap as electricity, especially when produced through solar. Here watch someone who does drive in the snow, even towing a trailer at the same time.
        https://m.youtube.com/channel/UCG1QcV31eoSaX4rE8avQL4A

        • guest says:

          What happened to going anywhere, anytime in your Model X? And why would BMW sabotage i division by joining with the oil industry?

        • Dig Deeper says:

          I own a small electric car, and boy I watch the charge quickly fall when I use heat or drive at speeds I am used to. Even at “200 mile” EPA rated range these things are far from practical as an only vehicle for the average person.

          • CDspeed says:

            Im finding it hard to believe you, what make, and model are you referring to…?

          • Dig Deeper says:

            2015 Fiat 500e. These models are very cheap on the used market in CA right now. But if the car is doing 80-85 with heat running on freeway, you can literally watch the charge % drop every 30-45 seconds.

            Under the real world driving habits of many a 200 mile vehicle is going to be an inconvenience fairly often.

          • CDspeed says:

            The average daily commute is around 40 miles, 200 miles would be more then enough for daily life. And if your so convinced they don’t work, why are you driving a car with an 84 mile range? The one issue most people are aware of is your range gauge is constantly recalculating, in my i3 I’ve seen my miles fluctuate but I know what it’s capable of, I also know BMW’s software updates try to address it but don’t really work. My Tesla however is a lot more steady, and accurate. I wouldn’t base my opinion on the car Fiat didn’t even want to build, or especially the first generation electric cars that hit the road a few years ago. If you really live in California why not check out the Chevrolet Bolt? It’s not for sale where I live yet, you should take the opportunity.

          • Dig Deeper says:

            Because this is a secondary car, I got it for 6 grand, and charging at my workplace is free.

            No way would I pay 30 grand to have one of these as my only car. I don’t think many people are willing to do that, the BEV would be one of two or three cars. For the many people that have only one car it’s just not that practical of a vehicle. 200 miles EPA range can be less than 150 in some driving conditions. Putting on 150 miles before having an opportunity to recharge would be normal.

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