The electric SUV generates its own power from a hydrogen fuel cell.
A fleet of fewer than 100 SUVs will be used for final testing and demonstration around the world.
BMW claims hydrogen is a key part of its strategy to become carbon neutral.
BMW has officially launched its fleet of hydrogen-powered iX5 SUVs which will be used for final testing and media demonstrations around the world starting later this year.
This will allow the automaker to further the development of its fuel cell technology, which will be a key part of its strategy to reach carbon neutrality, in addition to fully electric vehicles.
The iX5 is a modified version of the current X5 which is powered by an electric motor on the rear axle which generates 401 horsepower and can also be used as a generator to send power back to a specifically designed lithium-ion battery that acts as a power bank during deceleration.
Rather than using a large battery pack, this electric motor takes its energy from a hydrogen fuel cell, combining gaseous hydrogen with ambient oxygen to create a chemical reaction.
Most of the components of this system have been developed and manufactured by BMW in a pilot production facility, including the fuel cell stacks which are inspected before being compressed with a force of five tonnes.
Using two 700-bar tanks made from plastic reinforced with carbon fibre, the iX5 can store close to 6 kilograms of gaseous hydrogen, which enables it to drive up to 504 kilometres between fill-ups according to the WLTP cycle. Since this testing method is often more generous than the EPA cycle used in North America, the iX5’s range is likely to be rated lower if it is offered in the U.S. or Canada at some point.
The main advantage of hydrogen power for personal vehicles is the ease of refuelling, which only takes three to four minutes and is similar in process to filling a car with gasoline or diesel.
In addition, BMW says hydrogen is one of the most efficient ways to store renewable energies and it offers many possibilities due to its versatility.
However, the success of this technology is dependent on the growth of the global hydrogen supply infrastructure which is currently fairly limited, which the company acknowledges.
Furthermore, not all methods of extracting hydrogen are eco-friendly, which means that the supply chain will need to be modified before this technology becomes fully climate neutral.