While its battery-electric vehicle offensive is picking up speed, the BMW Group continues the development of hydrogen fuel cell technology.

At next month’s IAA Mobility 2021 show in Munich, BMW will unveil the iX5 Hydrogen, the near-production version of the BMW i Hydrogen NEXT concept car from 2019. Although it looks like a regular X5 except for the unique lower bumper inserts, BMW i Blue accents, and 22-inch aero wheels, BMW says the iX5 Hydrogen is still in series development.

From the end of 2022, a small series of the BMW iX5 Hydrogen will be used for demonstration and testing purposes. The iX5 Hydrogen combines a high-performance hydrogen fuel cell with BMW’s fifth-generation eDrive developed from the system also used in the BMW iX all-electric SUV.

The drive system uses hydrogen as fuel by converting it into electricity in the fuel cell, delivering an electrical output of up to 125 kW (168 bhp/170 PS) and water vapour as the only emission. The motor serves as a generator in coasting overrun and braking phases, feeding energy into a power battery.

The energy stored in the power battery is also unleashed during particularly sporty driving manoeuvres, delivering a system output of 275 kW (368 bhp/374 PS) and “the brand's signature driving experience.” 

The hydrogen needed to supply the fuel cell is stored in two 700-bar tanks made of carbon-fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP), which together hold almost six kilograms of hydrogen. This complex powertrain also enables the iX5 Hydrogen to maintain consistently high speeds over longer distances, although BMW hasn't revealed the maximum range achieved with full tanks.

“Filling up the hydrogen tanks only takes three to four minutes – so there are no limits on using the BMW iX5 Hydrogen for long distances, with just a few, short stops in-between.”

Juergen Guldner, head of BMW Group Hydrogen Fuel Cell Technology and Vehicle Projects

BMW sees hydrogen fuel cell technology as an additional option for sustainable individual mobility. In addition to battery-electric models like the i3, iX3, iX, and i4, the BMW i brand could in the future also offer vehicles with hydrogen fuel cell drive trains.

“Provided the hydrogen is produced using renewable energy and the necessary infrastructure is available, this technology can complement the BMW Group’s electrified drive train portfolio – and, in particular, meet the needs of customers who do not have their own access to electric charging infrastructure, frequently drive long distances or desire a high degree of flexibility.”

If that decision is eventually taken, the iX5 Hydrogen will most likely become the first BMW of its kind to enter series production. Until then, IAA Mobility 2021 visitors will be able to check it out by taking rides in it along the Blue Lane connecting the main exhibition grounds with other exhibition venues in Munich city centre.