BMW believes fuel cells and batteries are complementary solutions

BMW fuel cell batteries complementary

BMW believes fuel cells and batteries are complementary solutions

The Bavarian manufacturer is currently presenting its iX5 Hydrogen SUV in France. This is an opportunity to take stock of BMW’s decarbonisation strategy.

The German carmaker has made a strong commitment to electric vehicles (with 215,000 EVs sold last year, or 9% of total sales). But let’s not forget it also is one of the few pioneers in hydrogen.

At the start of the decade, it brought out a Hydrogen 7-Series with a combustion engine and liquid hydrogen storage. BMW tested the hydrogen X5 for 4 years before offering it in small series. The vehicle develops 401 hp (295 kW), with a 170 hp (125 kW) fuel cell and a 295 kW electric motor. The car claims a range of 500 km, powered by 6 kg of hydrogen. It accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in less than 6 seconds.

This is the vehicle that the brand is currently showing to the media in Vendée (a Western region of France). The route comprises a stopover at the Lhyfe site in Bouin (where green hydrogen is produced) and at the La Roche-sur-Yon multi-energy station to refuel the vehicle (see our article).

Batteries aren’t the be-all and end-all

According to BMW, batteries and fuel cells technologies are complementary. Using conventional electric vehicles is relevant in most cases, but not all. In the absence of charging points, hydrogen can be used to meet mobility needs, particularly for large SUVs and long-distance journeys. In particular, customers living in cold climates can be sure that their range will remain the same. The combination of the two technologies means we can decarbonise faster, while reducing our dependence regarding a few raw materials. Besides, platinum (the main component found in fuel cells) is already highly recyclable.

As for efficiency, compared with battery electrics, the manufacturer is sweeping aside the criticisms. Increased production of renewable energy offsets conversion losses. What’s more, excesses of green electricity can be converted directly into hydrogen. BMW goes even further by pointing out that the carbon footprint is similar for vehicles powered by batteries or fuel cells, as long as they use renewable energies however.

600 hydrogen stations in Europe by 2030

The main advantage is the speed of refuelling since the tank can be refuelled in barely a few minutes. BMW points out that the initial cost of electric recharging is low, but increases as the number of vehicles grows. Regarding hydrogen refuelling stations, the cost is naturally higher (depending on the size however), but it remains steady during roll-out. BMW argues that it makes sense to develop both networks simultaneously. The roll-out cost of both networks being lower (by 20 to 34% depending on the assumptions) than a 100% electric scenario.

Worldwide, a thousand stations have already been deployed (more than 650 in Asia, 276 in Europe and the Middle East, 116 in the USA). In Europe, due to the objective set out by the AFIR, there should be 600 stations by 2030. There will be stations every 200 m on fast lanes and at every urban junction. These stations will be able to refuel up to 10 vehicles simultaneously.

Do you want to know more about BMW ? Then our latest 2 articles about the German manufacturer should interest you. You can read them here and there.

Article written by Laurent Meillaud and translated by Logan King 

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About the author

Logan King

Logan King

After an unusual career (3 years in the French army followed by a 3-year degree in Applied Foreign Languages), it was my passion for environmental issues that finally caught up with me and led me to join Seiya Consulting and H2 Today in June 2022. First as an end-of-study internship, then as Marketing & Communication Manager and translator at Hydrogen Today.

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