July 15, 2024
BMW’s hydrogen-powered iX5 keeps fuel cell hopes alive

BMW is weighing to start serial production of hydrogen models in the second half of this decade, but any sales push makes sense only once adequate infrastructure becomes available, said Frank Weber, the automaker’s technology chief.

Just 750 hydrogen refueling stations were in operation globally last year, according to the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory researcher.

Getting the hydrogen-powered iX5 in front of the public is one way of highlighting the technology’s strong points, BMW said.

Filling up the iX5 with hydrogen takes only four minutes, compared with about 30 minutes for charging the most advanced battery powered vehicles.

BMW expects the adoption of hydrogen long-haul trucks to speed up installations of refueling stations, in a boon also to passenger cars. The company hopes that the cost of fuel cell components comes down once hydrogen rigs are produced at scale.

“We are confident that at the end of the decade, prices for an electric vehicle with a larger battery and fuel cell cars will be on par,” Weber said.

Still, BMW’s small test fleet suggests the German company is not expecting larger-scale adoption anytime soon. It’s also keeping the vehicles on a tight leash: aside from company-organized test drives, the cars will not be handed out to drivers for everyday use.

“Fuel cell cars are always going to be more expensive than battery powered ones,” said BNEF analyst Martin Tengler.

“Maybe BMW is targeting a niche segment, there might some money to be made. But the big picture is that it’s best to leave hydrogen cars where they have always been — just around the corner.”

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