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BMW plans hydrogen fuel cell offering “early in next decade”

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.



BMW is making FCEVs a question of chicken and egg. That is another way to sit on the fence for a while longer.

BMW could do like HONDA, HYUNDAI and TOYOTA and solve the problem by installing (with others) a multitude of H2 station networks. That is also what TESLA has done to promote the sales of their BEVs.

The current lack of H2 stations is a false problem. The technologies are there to fix that so called problem within 12 to 18 months. Norway is using very high efficiency electrolysers + clean Hydro electricity to produce clean H2 at affordable price. Others could so it.


Not every auto manufacturer wants to get into the fuel production/distribution business.


"Norway is using very high efficiency electrolysers + clean Hydro electricity to produce clean H2 at affordable price."

The technology developed by NEL will give you 1 kg compressed hydrogen while using 65KWh of electrical energy. That is not what I call high effiency.The cost of electric power is estimated to 32,5 NOK (4 USD) for each kg of H2. The customer have to pay 90 NOK (11 USD) for each kg of H2. This price does not take into account the cost of investing in infrastructure. It is basically set to this level to make the cost of driving equal to the cost of driving diesel/gasoline cars.

The building of infrastructure have to be sponsored by the goverment. And so far the Norwegian government have spent about the same amount of money on 4 hydrogen stations as they have used on the entire network of fast charging stations.

Building a network of hydrogen filling stations will cost a lot of money. And I understand very well that BMW don't want to be part of this.


"Practical electrolysis (using a rotating electrolyser at 15 bar pressure) may consume 50 kilowatt-hours per kilogram (180 MJ/kg), and a further 15 kilowatt-hours (54 MJ) if the hydrogen is compressed for use in hydrogen cars"

"By pressurising the hydrogen in the electrolyser, the need for an external hydrogen compressor is eliminated; the average energy consumption for internal compression is around 3%"

"electrolysis reaction is more efficient at higher temperatures."

So if you have waste heat from a power plant and compress the electrolyzer you could get more than 70% efficiency.


Since H2 is storable, it should be made with green electricity (REs) on an energy availability basis, i.e. about 18 hours/day Monday to Friday and 24 hours/day on Saturday, Sunday and Holidays.

Secondly, electrolyser operators should get clean electricity (outside peak periods) at a very low special price (under $0.02/kWh). Everybody would benefit.

Norway and Germany will show the way?

France could use excess heat and (out peak periods) electricity from their 58 NPPs

NG and electricity from CPPs, NGPPs should not be used to feed electrolysers.

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