As with BMW’s previous hydrogen projects, you can’t buy the iX5. Instead, the fuel cell SUV is given on a loan to certain people to try out the technology and spread the word about EVs that don’t have large and heavy batteries. It has already entered limited production, with five vehicles slated to arrive in the United States by the end of the year.
There’s more to come on the fuel cell front as Jürgen Guldner, BMW’s General Program Manager Hydrogen Technology, told Autocar a production vehicle will follow. Asked by British journalists about when people will be able to buy a BMW hydrogen car, he said it’s “probably going to [arrive] in the second half of the decade.”
Why not now? Guldner explained the infrastructure is not ready, adding the European Union’s Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Directive could massively improve the refueling network. Autocar explains that modifying the directive’s status to a full Regulation status would impose building stations every 150 kilometers (93 miles) on arterial routes. In an ideal scenario, these would go on to become the backbone of a wider infrastructure.
Guldner is confident fuel cell electric cars will gain traction in the years to come, mentioning it is “only a matter of time.” He projects FCEVs could become a “significant minority” in Europe, saying automakers will realize battery-powered EVs have their limits. He was referring to the availability of raw materials and the charging infrastructure.
Speaking of which, the BMW representative said fuel cell hydrogen vehicles require fewer raw materials than conventional battery EVs, thus making them less prone to major price hikes. Analysis conducted by the German luxury brand shows it’s “absolutely possible” to achieve cost parity between FCEVs and BEVs at some point in the 2030s.
Jürgen Guldner is not the first important person within the BMW Group to express his optimism about fuel cell cars. In October 2022, chairman Oliver Zipse told Top Gear magazine there will be a viable product from BMW with hydrogen this decade. Earlier last year, sales chief Pieter Nota told Nikkei Asia a hydrogen car would come to the market before 2030.