BMW shows powertrain of its hydrogen car
The premium German car manufacturer, BMW, is showing the first virtual insights into the powertrain system of its hydrogen car, i Hydrogen Next, first shown at the Frankfurt Motorshow IAA. The system is one of the alternative powertrain systems BMW is further developing, considering the different markets and customer requirements all over the world.
“We are convinced that various alternative powertrain systems will exist side by side in the future, says Klaus Fröhlich, BMW’s R&D boss. “There is no single solution that addresses the full spectrum of customers’ mobility requirements worldwide.”
“The hydrogen fuel cell technology could quite feasibly become the fourth pillar of our powertrain portfolio in the long term. The upper-end models in our extremely popular X family would make particularly suitable candidates.”
Although the BMW Group says to have no doubt as to the long-term potential of fuel cell powertrain systems, it will be some time before the company offers its customers a production car powered by hydrogen fuel cell technology. This is primarily because, according to BMW, the right framework conditions are not yet in place.
“In our view, hydrogen as an energy carrier must first be produced in sufficient quantities at a competitive price using green electricity. Hydrogen will then be used primarily in applications that cannot be directly electrified, such as long-distance heavy-duty transport,” adds Fröhlich.
However, the BMW Group is pressing ahead with its development work in the field of hydrogen fuel cell technology. The company is using the time until the infrastructure, and sustainably produced hydrogen supply are in place to substantially reduce the cost of manufacturing the powertrain system.
Initial technical details
“The fuel cell system of the powertrain in the BMW i Hydrogen NEXT generates up to 125 kW (170 hp) of electric energy from the chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen from the ambient air (or electrolysis),” explains Jürgen Guldner, Vice President of Hydrogen Fuel Cell Technology and Vehicle Projects at the BMW Group.
The electric converter located underneath the fuel cell adapts the voltage level to that of both the electric powertrain and the peak power battery, which is fed by brake energy as well as the energy from the fuel cell. The vehicle also accommodates a pair of 700 bar tanks that can together hold six kilograms of hydrogen.
“This guarantees a long enough range regardless of the weather conditions,” notes Guldner. “And refueling only takes three to four minutes.”
The fifth-generation eDrive unit, set to make its debut in the BMW iX3 soon, is also fully integrated into the BMW i Hydrogen NEXT. The peak power battery positioned above the electric motor delivers an extra dose of power for overtaking or accelerating. The total system output is 275 kW (374 hp).
This hydrogen fuel cell electric powertrain will be first launched in a small pilot series based on the current BMW X5 in 2022. A real BMW customer offering powered by hydrogen fuel cell technology will be brought to market at the earliest in the second half of this new decade, depending on the global market conditions and requirements.
Collaboration with Toyota
To ensure it is ideally prepared, the BMW Group is teaming up with the Toyota Motor Corporation in a partnership that dates back to 2013. The two manufacturers have joined forces to work on fuel cell powertrain systems and scalable, modular components for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles under a product development cooperation agreement.
Fuel cells from the cooperation with Toyota will be deployed in the BMW i Hydrogen NEXT, together with a fuel cell stack and overall system developed by the BMW Group. The two companies are also founding members of the Hydrogen Council. Since 2017, it counts over 80 members.
BRYSON research project
The BMW Group’s participation in the research project BRYSON (a German acronym for ‘space-efficient hydrogen storage tanks with optimized usability’) underlines that it has faith in the future viability and potential of hydrogen fuel cell technology.
This alliance between BMW AG, Munich University of Applied Sciences, Leichtbauzentrum Sachsen GmbH, the Technical University of Dresden, and WELA Handelsgesellschaft mbH seeks to develop pioneering high-pressure hydrogen storage tanks.
These are to be designed to allow easy integration into future universal vehicle architectures. The project aims to develop tanks with a flat design.
Set to run for three-and-a-half years, and with funding from the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, this project will also help to lower the cost of manufacturing hydrogen tanks for fuel cell vehicles, enabling them to compete effectively with battery electric vehicles.