BMW Group starts production of a small series of fuel cell vehicles

BMW Group starts production of a small series of fuel cell vehicles

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By Christoph Hammerschmidt

The BMW Group launched production of  BMW iX5 Hydrogen.

The small series is being built at the pilot plant of the Munich Research and Innovation Center (FIZ). The first Sports Activity Vehicle (SAV) with hydrogen fuel cell technology has already undergone an intensive test program during its development phase. From spring 2023, it will be used as a technology demonstrator for locally CO2-free mobility in selected regions.

Frank Weber, Member of the Board of Management of BMW AG for Development: “As a versatile energy carrier, hydrogen plays a key role on the road to climate neutrality. We are convinced that it will also become significantly more relevant in individual mobility, and therefore consider a mix of battery and fuel cell electric drives to make sense in the long term. Moreover, the fuel cell does not require critical raw materials such as cobalt, lithium or nickel, so our investment in this type of drive also strengthens the BMW Group’s geopolitical resilience. With our BMW iX5 Hydrogen test fleet, we will gather new and important insights. This will enable us to offer our customers an attractive product range when the hydrogen economy becomes a widespread reality.”

Production of the BMW iX5 Hydrogen will take place at the BMW Group’s pilot plant at FIZ in Munich. This interface between development and production is where every new BMW Group brand model is realized for the first time. Around 900 employees work there in the areas of body construction, assembly, model technology, concept vehicle construction and additive manufacturing. In the case of the BMW iX5 Hydrogen, specialists in hydrogen technology, vehicle development and initial assembly of new models work closely together to integrate the innovative drive and energy storage technology.

Fast refueling, high range

The base vehicles of the hydrogen model developed on the basis of the BMW X5 come from the US BMW Group plant in Spartanburg. In the pilot plant’s body shop, they are given a new floor assembly that enables the two hydrogen tanks to be accommodated in the center tunnel and under the rear seat bench. In addition to series components, the model-specific 12-volt and 400-volt electrical system, the (relatively small) power battery and the electric motor and fuel cell are integrated in the assembly shop. The electric motor, which is located together with the battery in the rear axle area, comes from the current fifth generation of BMW e Drive technology, which is also used in battery-electric and plug-in hybrid models from BMW. The fuel cell systems positioned under the front hood of the BMW iX5 Hydrogen have been manufactured at BMW’s own Hydrogen Competence Center since August of this year.

Numerous components are produced exclusively for the hydrogen SAV, including at the Additive Manufacturing Campus, the BMW Group’s center of excellence for 3D printing processes, which is also part of the pilot plant.

The BMW iX5 Hydrogen is designed to combine the benefits of locally emission-free propulsion with everyday practicality and long-distance capability. Its hydrogen fuel cell technology is thus a complement and alternative to battery-electric drive, especially for regions that do not yet have sufficient charging infrastructure and for customers who rely on short refueling stops and long ranges. BMW did not, however, provide any details on the range of the fuel cell vehicle.

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