BMW details fuel cell plans

Technology News |
By Christoph Hammerschmidt

With the BMW i Hydrogen NEXT, BMW will produce a small series in 2022 that is equipped with a hydrogen fuel cell E-propulsion system and thus only emits water vapour. Specifically, the BMW plant in Landshut (Bavaria) will manufacture the so-called stack housing made of light metal for the BMW i Hydrogen NEXT, in which the fuel cells are located, and the media end plate. It consists of plastic and light metal castings and serves as an air and watertight seal for the stack housing. The “media” hydrogen, oxygen and coolant are introduced into the housing through the end plate to initiate the chemical reaction in the fuel cells. The system was developed at the Landshut Lightweight Construction and Technology Centre (LuTZ).

In the drive train, the fuel cell system of the planned BMW i Hydrogen NEXT, which is continuously fed with hydrogen from CFRP tanks, generates up to 125 kW of electrical energy for the electric motor, which sits on the rear axle. The underlying mechanism is a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen, whose only reaction product is water. Two 700-bar tanks, which together hold six kilograms of hydrogen, guarantee long ranges in all weather conditions – with a refuelling time of only three to four minutes.

BMW’s fuel cell power train design: The fuel cell (left) sits on top of the front axle while the e-motor and the relatively small high-voltage battery ensure that the drive wheels are loaded.

The actual propulsion task is performed by BMW’s fifth generation electric drive (Gen5) integrated into the vehicle. This drive is used for the first time in the BMW iX3, whose production recently started in China. The power buffer battery, which in this drive design sits above the electric motor, provides additional dynamics during acceleration. The total drive power is thus 275 kW.

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