Not all EV technology is boring. BMW is currently leading the research and development of a new breed of EVs powered by hydrogen fuel cells. Despite many deeming the use of hydrogen to be expensive and impractical, the German automaker launched its first fleet of hydrogen-powered iX5s. Production numbers for the FCEV (Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle) SUVs are limited to 100 in 2023.
Everything about the new BMW SUV is exciting, starting from the power it produces to the virtually non-existent Carbon Footprint it leaves behind. However, not everything is sunshine and rainbows in the practicality of using the universe’s lightest element as fuel.
It’s a terrible feeling having to plan a road trip on any EV other than a Tesla. Pulling up a map and planning your trip carefully to include charging stations is customary to owning an electric vehicle. Owners of the brand-new BMW iX5 Hydrogen can brush past this issue, but worse trouble awaits them at the end of their range.
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The BMW iX5 Hydrogen is a revolutionary addition to the automotive industry, developed on the foundation of the current BMW X5. It made its debut at the 2019 IAA show as a concept car, but BMW bottled up its hydrogen project for the next two years. The year was 2021 when BMW finally broke the silence and exhibited the vehicle's initial prototypes. This was at IAA Mobility 2021, where visitors saw it in action as a shuttle vehicle.
After four long years of relentless work, the project is finally emerging from its cocoon and spreading its wings. BMW Group has finally unveiled the first vehicles in their pilot fleet, ready to take on the roads in 2023. This milestone marks a turning point in the development process of the FCEV: the hydrogen-powered SUVs will be deployed globally for demonstration and trial purposes. However, it will be 2030 before the BMW iX5 will be available for purchase to the public.
The fleet of under 100 vehicles will provide an opportunity for people not involved in the development process to experience the BMW iX5 Hydrogen. BMW has a specific target demographic, beginning with the press. The next group to get behind a hydrogen wheel will be members of the European Parliament, who recently voted to ban the sale of combustion engines in the EU by 2035.
The powertrain of the BMW iX5 Hydrogen is a symphony of technology. The highly-integrated drive unit, powered by fifth-generation BMW eDrive technology, purrs on the rear axis. The German luxury car brand developed the high-performance lithium-ion battery specifically for the SUV. Together, they produce a maximum output of 295 kW / 401 hp (which isn’t unheard-of-sorcery for an electric vehicle).
The power doesn’t draw eyeballs on its own. It is the fuel tank and range that is truly spectacular about the hydrogen-powered BMW SUV. The two 700-bar tanks that store the hydrogen are a work of engineering art. Constructed from carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP), they hold six kilograms of hydrogen.
That’s enough Hâ to power the BMW iX5 Hydrogen for a range of 313 eco-friendly miles. To draw a rough picture of how far that is, 313 miles is the equivalent of 6 hours of driving. When you’re running out of gas (hydrogen gas, not gasoline), refueling these tanks is theoretically a lightning-fast process, taking only three to four minutes. Except, it is not in real life!
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Waiting 4 minutes at a refueling station is only slightly longer than they take to make your coffee at Starbucks. That is if drivers are lucky enough to find a hydrogen station.
Unlike EVs that have access to an acceptable number of charging stations across the country, FCEVs will have to spend their entire range searching for a spot to refuel. The US only has 107 hydrogen fueling stations across the whole country, and nearly half of them are in California. A hydrogen-powered car will be practical only if you are driving through California on your road trip.
Improvements to hydrogen fuel access are on their way, with the US expecting to have 4,300 hydrogen fueling stations by 2030. Until then, the BMW iX5 will leave drivers stranded on the side of the road if the journey exceeds 313 miles.
The BMW iX5 Hydrogen is a breath of fresh air (pun intended). Similar to traditional EVs, FCEVs emit no toxic pollutants when on the road. They are many steps ahead of internal combustion engines that produce harmful tailpipe emissions such as carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and sulfur oxides. FCEVs produce only water as exhaust.
FCEVs operate differently from conventional electric vehicles. Instead of storing electricity in batteries, FCEVs use hydrogen from tanks and oxygen from outside air to generate electricity through a process that produces only water as a byproduct. Hydrogen and oxygen combine in the fuel cell stack to generate power, while the distilled water is removed as exhaust.
This process also has an atmospheric "scrubbing" effect, as the air drawn into the FCEV passes through a three-stage air purification system consisting of an air filter, membrane humidifier, and gas diffusion layer. That’s right; the BMW iX5 is a giant mobile air purifier.
Owners of the new BMW iX5 Hydrogen need not fear range or tearing up the atmosphere with their exhaust. Instead, they will be more concerned about finding a hydrogen station once their 313 miles run out, at least until 2030.2023-03-18T20:49:37Z dg43tfdfdgfd