BMW has announced the production of BMW BMW iX5 hydrogen (small series of its iX5 SUV in a hydrogen version), a technology that the company considers promising in the transition to low-carbon mobility.
While virtually all carmakers have begun their energy transition with the development of new 100% electric cars, some want to go a step further. Indeed, several brands are focusing on alternative energies, such as Porsche, which is very interested in synthetic fuels to keep internal combustion engines going, or Toyota and hydrogen. The Japanese carmaker also markets a hydrogen model in France with the Mirai.
But Toyota is not the only one interested in this energy, as BMW also intends to exploit the full potential of what could perhaps be the number one alternative to electric cars in a few years. The Bavarian firm has just announced the production of fuel cell systems for the BMW iX5 Hydrogen SUV. This is not a surprise, as the manufacturer revealed some details in August 2022.
BMW iX5 HYDROGEN: THE START OF A NEW ADVENTURE?
The combination of a fuel cell and a battery should enrich the range of the German manufacturer within the next few years, even if we don’t necessarily know the proportions yet. BMW wants to bring more diversity to this unprecedented energy transition, and hydrogen is part of it, even if electric cars remain predominant in the coming years.
Hydrogen is often considered a “gas factory,” with many more elements needed to manufacture it than an electric car. It remains to be seen if the research and development around this technology will make the hydrogen car relevant on an ecological level.
THE BMW IX5 HYDROGEN WILL NOT BE FOR SALE.
In the case of the BMW iX5 Hydrogen, BMW says the SUV develops 374 hp through an electric motor with fifth-generation BMW eDrive technology and a high-performance battery specially designed for the vehicle. The car is equipped with two hydrogen tanks and a fuel cell.
The unit is integrated into the chassis of a standard X5, and BMW will produce a small series of its iX5 Hydrogen by the end of the year “for testing and demonstration purposes,” says the brand in its release. In other words, it will not be available for sale.
HOW IS THIS TECHNOLOGY MADE?
Let’s also remember that, since 2013, BMW has been associated with the Japanese Toyota, the world’s leading manufacturer and one of the most advanced on hydrogen motorization. In particular, the German firm is sourcing the fuel cells needed to manufacture the BMW iX5 Hydrogen from Toyota.
A fuel cell system is manufactured in two steps. It is first assembled into a fuel cell stack, and in the next step, all other components are adapted to form a complete fuel cell system.
The battery casing is manufactured in the metal foundry of the BMW plant in Landshut, Germany. After inspection, the battery is compressed by a machine with a force of five tons and placed in a housing. Then molten aluminum is poured into a mold of compacted sand mixed with resin. The pressure plate, which supplies hydrogen and oxygen to the fuel cell, is made from molded plastic parts and light alloy castings. The pressure plate forms a gas and water-tight seal around the fuel cell housing.
Finally, all the different components are assembled in the assembly area to produce the complete system. During this system assembly stage, other components are mounted, such as the compressor, anode and cathode, high-voltage cooling pump, and wiring harness.
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DOES HYDROGEN HAVE A FUTURE?
Today, the development of hydrogen engines is essentially dedicated to heavy trucks, boats, and planes. Its production is energy consuming and still depends on fossil fuels, while the lack of distribution stations is also a brake on its development. For example, in France, 29 hydrogen filling stations are currently open to the public.
Generally speaking, as stated above, for BMW, hydrogen will only remain an alternative, at least for the next few years. The Bavarian company said in March that it aims for 2 million 100% electric models by the end of 2025, promising 13 new electric models over three years.