BMW showed off its latest hydrogen-powered fuel cell prototype at its “Innovation Day” in France. The vehicle is set to be tested for its capabilities, and the new hydrogen fuel cells are likely to be a game-changer for the German automaker.
The BMW 5 Series GT prototype is the first complete Fuel Cell Vehicle (FCV) with 245 horsepower. Though BMW has used Hydrogen 7 technology, it can only manage upto 124 miles while the modified 5 Series can top 300. Lead of powertrain research at BMW Matthias Klietz stated that the vehicle wont reach the dealers anytime before 2020. The company is seeking time to test the vehicle, and develop it into a mature vehicle suited for public roads.
“By around 2025 to 2030, we expect fuel cell cars to have an established presence,” said Klietz.
The hydrogen fuel cell technology is being developed in partnership with Toyota, and to develop industry approved components by 2020. BMW hopes that it will eventually combine hydrogen fuel cells with an electric eDrive system, and the development of a network of hydrogen stations remains a challenge. The prototype that was displayed at the event was actually a customized Grand Tursimo 5-Series.
BMW also unveiled a new liquid injection system for its 1 Series hatchback, where liquid is fired into the engine as a spray, and quickly evaporates. This reduces the cooling combustion temperatures by about 25 degrees Celsius. Fuel cells have been used since the 1960s, for powering spacecrafts. Hydrogen fuel cells produce electricity from the reaction between a hydrogen and air. Apart from the longer range of travel, it is also a clean fuel as emission is in the form of water vapor.
However, there are many challenges like the lack of fuel and service stations, and high costs for the rare metals used in the technology. By 2015, about 1,275 such vehicles are set to hit the roads, but the technology is limited due to the high costs.