Speaking on the future of powertrains at the Aachen Colloquium, Klaus Fröhlich, Member of the Board of Management at BMW AG, Development, said that BMW will enter the fuel cell market early in the next decade, starting with very small production runs.
Fröhlich noted that at least until 2025 costs will remain too high and the hydrogen infrastructure too sparse to allow broad-based market penetration. However, he added, “by the time the fundamentals are in place, the BMW Group will also have marketable products ready that are attractive to customers.”
BMW’s latest hydrogen fuel-cell demonstrator and research vehicle is derived from the BMW Group’s modular electrification toolkit. Partner networks, such as the one that exists between the BMW Group and Toyota, are an excellent way of arriving at objectives more quickly and cost-effectively, Fröhlich said.
The BMW Group already offers a range of models with electrified drive systems, including the battery-electric BMW i3 and the line-up of five plug-in hybrids models. BMW Group is planning more models with electric drive systems in the future. Equally, though, conventional diesel and gasoline engines will play a major role for a long time to come, Fröhlich said.
In his talk at the 26th Aachen Colloquium, Fröhlich noted that the challenge of keeping both customers and lawmakers happy by meeting all their requirements would result in a need for a wide variety of different drive systems.
Pure battery-electric drive systems allow customers whose daily journeys don’t generally exceed 100 kilometers (62 miles) to enjoy zero-emission electric driving in small to medium-sized vehicles. The BMW i3 exemplifies a possible approach here, and now also offers customers an electric range of over 200 km (125 miles) in real-world use.
For medium-length journeys and mid-size vehicles, the BMW Group offers a wide choice of plug-in hybrid models (PHEVs). These all-rounders offer an entry point into customer-focused e-mobility in many segments.
BMW sees hydrogen-powered fuel-cell electric vehicle (FCEVs) offering the ideal combination of zero-emission motoring and everyday practicality when extended ranges and high running resistances are required. The key benefit for customers of fuel-cell drive systems is their short refueling time—similar to that offered by vehicles with conventional combustion engines.
What is lacking here, though, is the requisite hydrogen infrastructure and production set-up, and cross-sector partnerships have been launched to accelerate the process of establishing such an ecosystem.
Although BMW sees internal combustion engines declining in importance in the medium term, they will play a vital role for a long time to come and still offer potential that could be tapped into with additional investment. A wide spread of evolutionary advances will be needed to meet future requirements with respect to CO2 and other emissions, and 48V energy recuperation systems will play an increasingly important role in this regard.
The proportion of electrified vehicles on the roads is growing steadily. In the US and a number of European countries, demand is increasing at a faster pace than in Germany. Here, too, sales figures received a major boost from the launch of the BMW i3 with new 94 Ah battery. August 2016 saw worldwide sales of the BMW i3 rise by over 70% compared to twelve months previously.
There is tremendous potential for electric mobility in China, although this is subject to considerable local variation. Electric mobility will continue to be multifaceted in nature for a long while yet, guided by the particular concept and market at hand. A total of 34,664 BMW i and BMW iPerformance models had been sold in 2016 up to the end of August. A significant fall in costs is not expected until after 2020.