BMW surprises with fuel cell powertrain concept

March 30, 2020 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
BMW surprises with fuel cell concept
In the discussion about alternative drives for the future, BMW has so far been largely committed to the battery electric approach; the manufacturer has contributed little to the topic of fuel cell drives. This is, until now: The company has now presented a fuel cell-based powertrain concept for a hydrogen car.

Bavarian car manufacturer BMW has shown a prototype of a fuel cell powertrain designed to fit into a conventional passenger car. With this powertrain, the company plans to build a small series in 2022 based on the current SUV model X5. "In the drive system of the BMW i Hydrogen NEXT, the fuel cell system generates up to 125 kW (170 hp) of electrical energy, which is obtained from the chemical reaction of hydrogen and oxygen from the air," says Jürgen Guldner, Head of BMW Group Hydrogen Fuel Cell Technology and Vehicle Projects. The local emissions of this vehicle thus consist exclusively of water vapor.

The electrical converter, which is located below the fuel cell, adjusts its voltage level to that of the electric drive and the power buffer battery. This is fed by the braking energy and the energy of the fuel cell. The vehicle itself contains two 700-bar tanks, which together hold six kilograms of hydrogen. According to Guldner, this guarantees long ranges in all weather conditions; the refuelling process should only take three to four minutes.

Integrated in this system is also BMW’s fifth generation electric drive, as it is to be used for the first time in the BMW iX3. The power buffer battery, which is positioned above the electric motor, can provide additional energy for short periods, for example when overtaking or accelerating. The total system output is 275 kW (374 hp).

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