BMW Group offered first virtual insights into the powertrain system for the BMW i Hydrogen NEXT, citing that its approach to developing the new powertrain includes "the careful consideration of differing market and customer requirements as part of the company’s Power of Choice strategy."

“We are convinced that various alternative powertrain systems will exist alongside one another in future, as there is no single solution that addresses the full spectrum of customers’ mobility requirements worldwide,” said Klaus Fröhlich, Member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, Research and Development. “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 here.”

Although the company says it no doubt as to the long-term potential of fuel-cell powertrain systems, it says it will be some time before its customers will be offered a production car powered by hydrogen fuel-cell technology. This is primarily due to the fact that the right framework conditions are not yet in place.

“In our view, hydrogen as energy carrier must first be produced in sufficient quantities at a competitive price using green electricity,” said Fröhlich. “Hydrogen will then be used primarily in applications that cannot be directly electrified, such as long-distance heavy duty transport.”

The company also notes that the requisite infrastructure, such as an extensive, Europe-wide network of hydrogen filling stations, is also lacking at present. However, it 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.

“The fuel-cell system for the powertrain for 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,” explained Jürgen Guldner, Vice President of Hydrogen Fuel Cell Technology and Vehicle Projects at the BMW Group.

This means the vehicle emits nothing but water vapor. 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 6 kg (13.2 lb) of hydrogen.

“This guarantees a long range regardless of the weather conditions,” said Guldner. “And refueling only takes three to four minutes.”

The fifth-generation eDrive unit set to make its debut in the BMW iX3 is also fully integrated into the BMW i Hydrogen NEXT. The peak power battery positioned above the electric motor injects an extra dose of dynamics when overtaking or accelerating. The total system output is 275 kW (374 hp). This hydrogen fuel-cell electric powertrain will be piloted in a small series based on the current BMW X5 that the company plans to present in 2022. The company reports that a customer offer powered by hydrogen fuel-cell technology will be brought to market at the earliest in the second half of this decade, depending on the global market conditions and requirements.

BMW says it is teaming up with Toyota Motor Corporation 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, alongside a fuel-cell stack and overall system developed by the BMW Group.


BMW Group is involved in the BRYSON research project

The company is participating in the research project BRYSON (a German acronym for "space-efficient hydrogen storage tanks with optimized usability") along with Munich University of Applied Sciences, Leichtbauzentrum Sachsen GmbH, the Technical University of Dresden, and WELA Handelsgesellschaft mbH. The goal is to develop high-pressure hydrogen storage tanks designed to allow easy integration into future universal vehicle architectures. The project aims to develop tanks with a flat design. Set to run for a period of three-and-a-half years and with funding from the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, this project also aims to help lower the cost of manufacturing hydrogen tanks for fuel-cell vehicles, enabling them to compete effectively with battery electric vehicles.

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