Why BMW will not go back on the hydrogen engine

BMW hydrogen engine

Why BMW will not go back on the hydrogen engine

Dr Juergen Guldner, the man in charge of hydrogen at the German carmaker, was at the test drive of the ix5 Hydrogen. We spoke to him.

“BMW has been working with hydrogen for 40 years, and we’ve been testing this vehicle for 4 years now,” said Ludovic Leguem, Communications Director for the French subsidiary. He is alluding to the launch of the IX5 Hydrogen, a version based on an electric X5. The difference lies in the fuel cell (from Toyota), the hydrogen tanks and a few other components. The brand may well be presenting these vehicles as prototypes, but their level of finish is equivalent to that of a mass-produced vehicle. What’s more, a full production line exists.

No going back on the hydrogen engine for BMW

For the Bavarian brand, the logical choice was the fuel cell. BMW had already tested the hydrogen internal combustion engine in a 7 Series. A 12-cylinder naturally-aspirated engine burned hydrogen, which was stored in liquid form and ‘heated’ to be injected into the cylinders. At a time when competition seems to be intensifying between the fuel cell and the H2 engine, why this choice? “With the fuel cell, we can offer a range of 500 km,” explains Dr Guldner, who is in charge of the hydrogen programme. “With the hydrogen engine, we can only offer a range of 300 km, which is not enough.” And the expert continues: “This solution makes sense in motor racing, but also in lorries, for example. What we need to keep in mind is that these solutions will coexist and get the automotive industry going.”

Sharing components with electric vehicles

As for BMW, the brand intends to rely on an electric base. They think hydrogen vehicles are electric vehicles that complements battery vehicles and meets specific use cases. What’s more, the group will soon be launching its Neue Klasse electrical and electronic architecture. The vehicle will therefore be available in hydrogen version and it will integrate common components from the electric powertrain. As Dr Gulder says: “In 5 to 10 years’ time, internal combustion vehicles will disappear, in Europe at least. We need to move on, and we’re developing electric engines. It’s an interesting time,” he concludes.

Do you want to learn more about hydrogen engines and BMW. Then our latest 2 articles on the subject should interest you. You can read about the hydrogen engine here and about BMW 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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