BMW says it is committed to addressing global climate change and intends to be carbon neutral by 2050, joining an increasing number of automakers in this declaration. But unlike many car manufacturers, the German brand is convinced that, along with battery-electric cars, hydrogen fuel-cell cars will play a significant role in achieving that goal.
The hydrogen-powered BMW iX5 SUV, whose low-volume production just started, is paving the way. It was first hinted at by the i Hydrogen Next concept, which made an appearance at the 2019 Frankfurt auto show just several years ago. The limited number of iX5s that BMW is currently producing will begin to travel the world’s streets in the spring of 2023 for testing.
The iX5 is put together at BMW’s Research and Innovation Center in Munich, Germany. It is centered on the standard BMW X5, which is made in the company’s factory in Spartansburg, South Carolina.
To convert an X5 into an iX5, a completely new floor must be installed in order to accommodate the two hydrogen tanks for the fuel-cell system, which are tucked away beneath the mid-size SUV’s central tunnel and back seats. The tanks’ combined weight is about 16 pounds, and they provide fuel to a load of fuel cells underneath the hood that is connected to an electric motor and battery mounted at the back.
According to BMW, the iX5’s entire fuel-cell-electric powertrain generates 374 horsepower overall. The manufacturer also claims that its curb weight is comparable to that of the plug-in hybrid X5, which tipped the scales at 5627 pounds.
The iX5 has a top speed of 118 mph, according to BMW, and can accelerate from 0 to 62 mph in less than seven seconds. Furthermore, it is said to have a driving range of approximately 310 miles, though this claim is based on the European WLTP cycle.
For clients with requirements that electric vehicles can’t satisfy, like those who would like to refuel quickly but don’t have access to fast charging, BMW believes that fuel-cell powertrains will offer a carbon-free alternative.
Additionally, the business believes that hydrogen power will help to mitigate the difficulties that electrification faces, particularly with medium- and heavy-duty trucks. The technology is also said to recognize renewable resources and areas with limited electrical grid capacity. BMW also notes the ongoing construction of hydrogen refueling stations as of 2020 and claims that over 40 states have strategic initiatives on hydrogen power at this time.
The BMW iX5 is currently only being produced as a pilot program, but it may pave the way for future BMW fuel-cell cars. In related news, Honda recently revealed plans to create a hydrogen-powered CR-V, making it just the third hydrogen-powered vehicle offered for sale in the United States.