German car maker will begin tests on hydrogen fuel cell-powered cars soon, with vehicle technology co-developed with Toyota
Jim Holder
18 December 2014

BMW’s hydrogen fuel cell vehicles will begin testing in the near future - but advances in battery technology may mean that they never reach production, according to the firm’s sales and marketing boss, Ian Robertson.

The firm has previously run a trial with hydrogen-powered vehicles; starting in 2007, it put 100 6.9-litre V12-engined 7-series on the road capable of running on petrol or hydrogen. Developing 256bhp and 290lb ft, the cars hit 62mph in 9.5sec.

The new generation of test cars are currently under development, with the technology being co-developed with Toyota. In particular, packaging of the fuel cell stack and hydrogen storage are said to have advanced significantly in recent years.

“We’ve said we’ll continue to invest in hydrogen and that will result in a small number of production test vehicles being made to prove the technology works,” said Robertson. “The real issues lie not around what we can do, though, but whether the infrastructure can be built up to supply hydrogen in the marketplace cost-effectively.”

As a result of the issues of the cost of hydrogen production and distribution, Robertson suggested battery technology gains could instead accelerate sales of electric vehicles. Advances in lithium ion technology are set to be followed by a switch to lithium air and then solid-state batteries. These advances over the next 10 years could “see charging time and range worries disappear”, according to Robertson.

In addition, Robertson indicated that he could now envisage a time in the future when investment in internal combustion engine technology switched to battery and electric motor advances. “At some point in the future the technologies will switch over,” he said. “When the crossover comes and the focus becomes electricity, the rate of learning will accelerate even faster,” he said. “Relatively, that time is not far away.”

BMW is expecting to sell 15,000 i3 electric or range-extended vehicles in 2014, making it the third-largest electric car maker. The i3 will go on sale in Asia in 2015.

BMW's long-term hydrogen plans are understood to centre around a future model for its 'i' range of cars. The mooted BMW i5 would employ a revised version of the powertrain used in the Toyota FCV.

Get the latest car news, reviews and galleries from Autocar direct to your inbox every week. Enter your email address below:

Our Verdict

BMW i3

BMW made waves with Europe’s first premium-brand compact EV, and continued development means the i3 keeps upping the ante

Join the debate

Comments
2

18 December 2014
New factory in Friedrichshafen?

18 December 2014
"hydrogen fuel cell vehicles will begin testing in the near future - but advances in battery technology may mean that they never reach production" Finally a true statement about the H bomb car, looks like Musk of Telsa, plus little old me, are being proved right and all the Hydrogen fan boys including James May and The Telegrapgh were and are being proved wrong afterall.

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Lexus LC500
    Car review
    20 October 2017
    Futuristic Lexus LC coupé mixes the latest technology with an old-school atmospheric V8
  • Maserati Levante S GranSport
    First Drive
    20 October 2017
    Get ready to trade in your diesels: Maserati’s luxury SUV finally gets the engine it’s always needed
  • Jaguar XF Sportbrake TDV6
    First Drive
    19 October 2017
    The handsome Jaguar XF Sportbrake exhibits all the hallmarks that makes the saloon great, and with the silky smooth diesel V6 makes it a compelling choice
  • Volkswagen T-Roc TDI
    First Drive
    19 October 2017
    Volkswagen's new compact crossover has the looks, the engineering and the build quality to be a resounding success, but not with this diesel engine
  • BMW M550i
    First Drive
    19 October 2017
    The all-paw M550i is a fast, effortless mile-muncher, but there's a reason why it won't be sold in the UK