Fuel cell drive as an important step in the development of the ‘Power of Choice’.


Munich. The development of alternative, CO2-free powertrains is a top priority for the BMW Group. Today, Federal Minister of Economics Peter Altmaier personally gained an impression of the company’s expertise in hydrogen fuel cell technology at the BMW Group Research and Technology House. During the tour of the Hydrogen Competence Center, the Chairman of the Board of Management of BMW AG, Oliver Zipse, together with hydrogen experts gave insights into the production process of the second generation fuel cell drive of the BMW Group.

Oliver Zipse: “Politicians have recognized the importance of green hydrogen for the energy system of the future. We expressly welcome the various initiatives. For road traffic, what is now needed above all is an expansion of the refuelling infrastructure that takes into account the needs of both commercial vehicles and passenger cars. Depending on how the framework conditions develop, hydrogen fuel cell technology has the potential to become a further pillar in the BMW Group’s drive portfolio”. 

Peter Altmaier, Federal Minister of Economics and Energy: “With the National Hydrogen Strategy and the billions pledged for its implementation in the economic stimulus package, the Federal Government has set a clear signal. We will shape the framework conditions and actively support the economy in the development and use of hydrogen technology. However, the marketable implementation of hydrogen technologies is up to the companies. And I am therefore very pleased that there are many companies in Germany, such as BMW, which have the vision, the courage and the innovative strength to make this technology a market success”.

The BMW Group also has experience with the use of hydrogen outside of drive development. The company has always pursued the approach of resource-saving production. The BMW Group plant in Leipzig has been operating hydrogen-powered forklift trucks since 2013. The use of innovative hydrogen technology offers the location the opportunity to further advance decarbonisation in the long term. With the Green Deal and the Next Generation EU, the European Union has also focused on hydrogen technology.

On the way to small series production of the BMW i Hydrogen NEXT

The BMW Group has been working together with the Toyota Motor Corporation on fuel cell drive systems since 2013. Since summer 2015, the BMW Group has been testing development vehicles based on the BMW 5 Series GT that are equipped with a jointly developed fuel cell system. During his visit, Federal Minister of Economics Altmaier took the opportunity to drive such a development vehicle himself.

In the next step, the BMW Group will start piloting the second drive generation in a small series from 2022 in the BMW i Hydrogen NEXT based on the current BMW X5. The so-called fuel cell stack and the overall system are original developments of the BMW Group. The individual cells of the fuel cell come from Toyota. The X5 pilot fleet will be manufactured using an automated research system for the production of fuel cell stacks, which was set up as part of the “Auto Stack Industrie” project funded by the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure. The testing of innovative production technologies is an important step in the preparation of a scalable, time, cost and quality-optimized production of hydrogen fuel cell drives.

In the future, hydrogen fuel cell powertrains can be an attractive alternative to battery electric vehicles, especially for customers who do not have their own access to electric charging infrastructure and often travel long distances. Hydrogen vehicles offer a high degree of flexibility with an adequate refuelling infrastructure, since the full range is available again after a short refuelling process of around four minutes – regardless of temperature conditions.

Second generation: details of the drive system in the BMW i Hydrogen NEXT.

The system power of the BMW i Hydrogen NEXT comes to a total of 275 kW (374 hp) and provides typical BMW driving dynamics.

“In the drive system of the BMW i Hydrogen NEXT, the fuel cell system generates up to 125 kW (170 hp) of electrical energy, which is obtained from the chemical reaction of hydrogen and oxygen from the air,” says Jürgen Guldner, Head of BMW Group Hydrogen Fuel Cell Technology and Vehicle Projects.

This means that the vehicle only emits water vapor. The electrical converter, which is located below the fuel cell, adjusts its voltage level to that of the electric drive and the power buffer battery. This battery is fed by the braking energy and the energy of the fuel cell. The vehicle itself contains two 700-bar tanks, which together hold six kilograms of hydrogen. Guldner:

“This guarantees long ranges in all weather conditions. The refuelling process takes only three to four minutes”.

Fully integrated in the BMW i Hydrogen NEXT is also the fifth generation E-drive, as used for the first time in the BMW iX3. The power buffer battery, which is positioned above the electric motor, can provide additional dynamics when overtaking or accelerating, for example. Equipped with this hydrogen fuel cell electric drive, the BMW Group will present a small series in 2022, based on the current BMW X5. In the second half of this decade at the earliest, and depending on market requirements and general conditions, the BMW Group will then launch a customer offering with hydrogen fuel cell technology.

The complete article in German can be read here.

Moreover a short video statement of Oliver Zipse and Peter Altmaier could be seen below.


Find More