BMW, one of the world's leading luxury car manufacturers, has been exploring the potential of hydrogen as a fuel for its vehicles for more than 20 years. The company's research and development efforts in this area have led to the creation of several impressive prototypes and concept cars, and while hydrogen-powered vehicles remain a niche market, BMW continues to explore the technology's potential.
The History of BMW Hydrogen
BMW began experimenting with hydrogen as a fuel in the early 2000s, initially focusing on converting existing gasoline-powered cars to run on hydrogen. The company's first hydrogen-powered car was the BMW Hydrogen 7, which debuted in 2006. The Hydrogen 7 was based on the BMW 7 Series sedan and used a hydrogen-powered internal combustion engine that produced 260 horsepower and had a top speed of 143 mph.
BMW built only 100 examples of the Hydrogen 7, which were offered to select customers in Europe and the United States. While the car was praised for its innovative powertrain, its limited range (about 125 miles on a tank of hydrogen) and the lack of hydrogen fueling infrastructure made it impractical for most consumers.
In the years that followed, BMW continued to experiment with hydrogen-powered vehicles, creating several impressive prototypes and concept cars. In 2007, the company unveiled the BMW Hydrogen Concept 7, a prototype based on the BMW 7 Series sedan that used a hydrogen-powered internal combustion engine combined with a hybrid drivetrain. The car had a range of up to 125 miles on hydrogen and an additional 300 miles on gasoline.
In 2012, BMW unveiled the i8 Concept Spyder, a sleek and futuristic convertible sports car that used a plug-in hybrid powertrain combining a turbocharged gasoline engine with an electric motor. The car also had a hydrogen fuel cell system that could power the electric motor for an additional range of up to 80 miles. While the i8 Concept Spyder never made it to production, it showcased BMW's ongoing commitment to exploring the potential of hydrogen as a fuel.
BMW's Future with Hydrogen
Today, BMW continues to experiment with hydrogen as a fuel, and the company is a member of the Hydrogen Council, a global initiative that promotes the use of hydrogen as a clean and sustainable energy source. BMW's latest hydrogen-powered prototype is the i Hydrogen NEXT, which was unveiled in 2019. The i Hydrogen NEXT is based on the BMW X5 SUV and uses a fuel cell powertrain that produces 374 horsepower and has a range of up to 300 miles (~480 kilimeters) on hydrogen.
BMW started a small-scale production of BMW iX5 Hydrogen in the end of 2022.
While BMW has not yet announced any plans to produce a hydrogen-powered vehicle for the mass market, the company remains committed to exploring the potential of this technology. Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles offer several advantages over traditional gasoline-powered cars, including zero emissions, fast refueling times, and long ranges. However, the lack of hydrogen fueling infrastructure remains a significant obstacle to widespread adoption.
In the future, BMW may also explore the potential of hydrogen as a source of energy for stationary applications, such as powering buildings or providing backup power for the electrical grid. As the world continues to transition to cleaner and more sustainable sources of energy, hydrogen is likely to play an increasingly important role, and BMW will undoubtedly be at the forefront of this technology.