Not all electric vehicles at the 2021 Munich Motor Show feature batteries. We're used to hearing about Hyundai's hydrogen ambitions, but BMW isn't giving up on the fuel-cell technology just yet. Case-in-point is the iX5 Hydrogen, which BMW debuts for the public at IAA Mobility 2021. In fact, BMW is using hydrogen-fuelled iX5s as shuttle vehicles for the show.
The iX5 actually shares its exterior look with the bonkers X5 M, but you won't find a 617-bhp (460-kilowatt) twin-turbocharged 4.4-litre V8 under the bonnet. Instead, you get a snazzy cover concealing electrical equipment beneath. The hydrogen-fuelled SUV generates a far more modest 168 bhp (125 kW), though for situations requiring more punch, BMW says the iX5 Hydrogen can bump power up to 369 bhp (275 kW) as needed. Efficiency, not performance, is the name of the game here.
Gallery: Photos BMW iX5 Hydrogen, IAA 2021
BMW believes there is a future for hydrogen in motoring, especially in areas where high-speed electric charging isn't accessible. To that end, BMW sees a future where battery-electric vehicles (BEV) exist alongside fuel cell vehicles, not unlike the present-day combination of petrol and diesel. Of course, that's dependent on a hydrogen infrastructure being built, as it's virtually non-existent at this point. However, with fuelling stations available, the iX5 could fill its two carbon-fibre tanks with approximately 6 kg (13 pounds) of hydrogen in about four minutes.
"Hydrogen fuel cell technology can be an attractive option for sustainable drivetrains – especially in larger vehicle classes," said Frank Weber, a member of BMW's board of management for development. "That is why road testing of near-standard vehicles with a hydrogen fuel cell drivetrain is an important milestone in our research and development efforts."
While BMW envisions fuel cell vehicles in the future, for now, the iX5 will remain a near-production test vehicle. Several will be built for evaluation, but without a hydrogen fuelling infrastructure, the future of fuel cell vehicles is most decidedly an uncertain one.