While a majority of car manufacturers are focusing on electric motorization, others are studying the possibility of driving differently by using other options, such as hydrogen. Thus, Hyundai, Toyota and Honda offer production vehicles equipped with fuel cells (PAC).
Another manufacturer, European this one, decided to play “a visionary and pioneering role in this technology with the aim of achieving a more diverse transition towards zero-emission mobility”. This is BMW which, for the occasion, will produce a small series of its iX5 Hydrogen SUV. This one will be “put into service worldwide from the end of this year for testing and demonstration purposes”.
The BMW iX5 Hydrogen will be equipped with second-generation fuel cells, manufactured in-house thanks in particular to the partnership signed in 2013 with Toyota, one of the world leaders in this technology. BMW would have succeeded “more than double the continuous power of the BMW iX5 Hydrogen’s second-generation fuel cell, while both weight and size have been drastically reduced”. The power “keep on going” generated by this stack of fuel cells is announced at 125 kW (170 hp).
This iX5 Hydrogen will carry two hydrogen tanks – the capacity of which has not been communicated –, an electric motor “featuring fifth-generation BMW eDrive technology”, and a battery. The powertrain will boast a total output of 275 kW (374 hp). On the other hand, nothing has been indicated with regard to autonomy.
Marketing planned for 2025
After this small series of which we do not know the number of copies, BMW plans to produce large-scale hydrogen vehicles within three years. Several obstacles still have to be overcome, such as the very high purchase price for this type of vehicle today, as well as the network of hydrogen pumps which needs to be densified. We also remember that in 2015, BMW and Shell joined forces to invent the design of the future Oasis hydrogen pumps.
But the crucial question remains the cost and the mode of production of hydrogen, not so virtuous as that. In fact, nearly 96% of global hydrogen production releases carbon dioxide due to steam reforming, the most common and most polluting technique, as it requires the use of natural gas (source The Conversation). There is another way to extract hydrogen through the electrolysis of water, if possible with electricity from solar or wind power.
A promising market from 2025
In January 2019, Stefan Wolf, director of ElringKlinger, an automotive supplier of fuel cell systems, told our German colleagues ofAutomobilwoche that “the fuel cell market will experience a real recovery between 2025 and 2030 at the latest”. But the hydrogen alternative, currently reserved for utility vehicles, trucks, planes and boats, can only be attractive if it “benefits from major technological breakthroughs and the active support of the public authorities, in particular thanks to highly incentive specific tax measures”already declared in 2015 Rene Tregouethonorary senator.