BMW iX5 Hydrogen: the electric SUV powered by a hydrogen fuel cell goes into production

After a successful development phase, BMW has started production of its hydrogen fuel cell electric SUV iX5 in Munich. For the time being, this SUV will not be produced on a large scale, and only a small number of units will roll off the production line for use as demonstration vehicles in 2023.

The iX5 Hydrogen is powered by a pair of electric motors (one on each axle) with a combined output of 369hp. These are the fifth-generation eDrive motors that also power the i7 and iX electric cars.

Many constraints remain

However, instead of drawing the energy stored in a battery pack, as is the case for a conventional electric car, the iX5 produces its own electricity thanks to the combustion of hydrogen (H2) and oxygen (O2) in a fuel cell. The latter thus produces electricity, which powers the electric motor. Waste heat from the system is used to heat the passenger compartment when needed.

The fuel cell, developed in partnership with Toyota, is fed by two 700 bar tanks which take up the space used by the combustion engine X5’s gearbox and driveshaft. Together, the tanks can hold six kilos of hydrogen. Knowing that a car consumes on average one kilo per 100 km, the autonomy could therefore be 600 km.

bmw iX5 hydrogen

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Sufficient autonomy for the manufacturer insofar as, under cover of an adapted infrastructure, the time for filling the tanks is only a few minutes. Other potential advantages of hydrogen electric vehicles over traditional electric cars include greater towing capacity and superior comfort due to the absence of a heavy lithium-ion battery pack — and therefore of a more rigid suspension necessary to support it. The manufacturer has carried out conclusive tests of autonomy and performance in the Arctic Circle.

bmw iX5 hydrogen

Unfortunately, other constraints weigh, such as the availability of fuel and its storage, not to mention its production resulting from the steam reforming of methane at 95%.

An appetizer?

BMW chose its Munich Research and Innovation Center to build the iX5, using multi-energy CLAR platforms supplied by the Spartanburg plant in the United States. To accommodate the two hydrogen tanks, a new floor is fitted, as is the car’s bespoke 400V electrical system, battery and fuel cells under the bonnet.

The iX5 Hydrogen project could nevertheless be an indication of the manufacturer’s roadmap in terms of development, and it does not exclude a large-scale production launch, or even integration into its iX3, iX or i4 models depending on market conditions and infrastructure support.

BMW Production Board Member Milan Nedeljković said: “The production of the BMW iX5 Hydrogen and the fuel cell systems developed by BMW shows our flexibility and know-how. It also shows that we already have the necessary expertise to integrate hydrogen technology into the BMW iFACTORY production system as an additional type of drivetrain.”

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