BMW will make a decision on whether it will send hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) into production by the end of 2024.

    If given the green light, the first hydrogen-powered BMW production model could launch by the end of the decade, joining the German manufacturer’s growing range of electric vehicles (EVs).

    Speaking to Australian media at the local launch of the iX5 Hydrogen FCEV pilot fleet, BMW general manager of hydrogen technology Dr Jürgen Guldner confirmed that a decision on the future of the project is imminent.

    “Right now we have the pilot fleet… we’re currently using feedback on these cars to hopefully make our decision later this year whether or not we go into production with this,” said Dr Guldner.

    “We haven’t decided which car but we are prepared to launch a vehicle within this decade.

    “We’re looking at different options for how to do it. But when the time comes, we will announce it.”

    That initial production FCEV would pave the way for a range-wide rollout in the 2030s, outlined by Dr Guldner.

    “With hydrogen we intend to follow the steps we did with battery-electric vehicles,” Dr Guldner explained.

    “We started with a pilot fleet of electric Minis and the BMW ActiveE 1 Series and from that experience we designed the first battery electric model, the i3 that came out in 2013.

    “It enabled us to then roll out battery powertrains across the whole model range from Mini to Rolls Royce. With hydrogen we think we will do the same thing.

    “A rollout would come later, in the 2030s because it’s a long-term project.”

    A pilot fleet of X5-based iX5 hydrogen SUVs is currently completing a global tour, with BMW gathering feedback and data to inform potential future production plans.

    Australian journalists had the chance to steer the development cars in Melbourne on Monday, which have been tested in a variety of environments from the icy landscapes of Sweden to deserts in the Middle East.

    The market for hydrogen passenger cars has experienced growing pains in recent years.

    Two FCEV models are currently sold overseas – the Toyota Mirai sedan and Hyundai Nexo small SUV – but demand has been on the decline.

    Last year, just 2968 new FCEVs were sold in the US, all of which were in California. The Toyota Mirai took 2737 sales, while the Hyundai Nexo contributed just 241 sales to the total. For context, 1.2 million BEVs were sold in that time.

    Energy giant Shell has closed all of its Californian hydrogen refuelling stations in response to the drop in demand. There are fewer than 10 active refuelling stations in Australia.

    Outside of passenger vehicles, hydrogen fuel cell technology has also been utilised in some aircraft and heavy vehicles.

    BMW first revealed a hydrogen version of the 7 Series back in 2005, and the X5-based iX5 SUV development car made its debut in 2021.

    “There are a lot of hydrogen vehicles already in the market. We’ve been working on hydrogen for 40 years, we’re just looking for the right point in time to launch it,” Dr Guldner concluded.

    “For us as BMW it makes sense to find the right point in time, we’re currently looking at that.”

    The current iteration of the BMW iX5 is powered by a hydrogen fuel-cell powertrain consisting of two carbon-fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP) hydrogen tanks that can store up to 6kg of hydrogen under 700 bar of pressure; a fuel cell producing 125kW; and an electric motor and a battery pack.

    Total system output is 295kW, enabling the iX5 to complete the 0-100km/h sprint in around six seconds.

    Refuelling takes less than five minutes and BMW claims a driving range of over 500km.

    The current combustion-powered X5 the iX5 is based on is nearing the end of its lifecycle, with a new-generation model expected in 2026.

    Josh Nevett

    Josh Nevett is an automotive journalist based in Melbourne, Australia. Josh studied journalism at The University of Melbourne and has a passion for performance cars, especially those of the 2000s. Away from the office you will either find him on the cricket field or at the MCG cheering on his beloved Melbourne Demons.

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