Currently reading: BMW plans new hydrogen-fuelled i5
Toyota tech destined for third i-brand model as BMW races to beat rivals to market with a fuel cell car

BMW is set to employ a revised version of the hydrogen-electric fuel cell system used in the Toyota FCV in a future i-brand model, possibly to be badged i5. 

Company sources say the race is on between the German car makers to get a hydrogen fuel cell car on the market, now that Japanese companies Honda and Toyota have taken the initiative.

The powertrain sharing is the first stage of a BMW-Toyota joint venture aimed at lowering development costs and providing improved economies of scale on advanced alternative drive systems shared between the two manufacturers. A second project, to build a rear-drive sports car platform, is also said to be well under way.

Having launched the i brand with a pure electric vehicle in the form of the BMW i3 hatchback and quickly expanding it with the petrol-electric hybrid i8 sports car, the introduction of a hydrogen-electric fuel cell-powered i5 would provide BMW’s youngest brand with a trio of alternative-energy vehicles, each offering a different form of propulsion.

It would also ensure that BMW has an answer to a hydrogen fuel cell-powered Mercedes-Benz B-class, which officials have confirmed is scheduled to head into small-scale production and will be offered to customers through official sales channels in selected markets in 2017.

Audi is expected to reveal a hydrogen-powered Audi A7 at the Los Angeles motor show next week, suggesting that it is also preparing to throw its hat into the fuel cell ring.

Despite the relative success of Tesla’s electric cars, which have pioneered the combination of large battery packs and the luxury car format, many car makers still believe that hydrogen could become a viable zero-CO2 fuel. 

Many in the auto industry point out that a hydrogen fuel cell car can be refuelled in a matter of minutes, while even the most powerful EV chargers take at least 30 minutes to replenish batteries. 

Arguably, the mass storage and transportation of hydrogen is relatively straightforward, too, in comparison with upgrading the electricity network. 

Fast charging systems, especially those using three-phase supplies, require significant upgrades to the local electricity infrastructure, while mass recharging stations would require significant space, which might not be available in urban areas.

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Norma Smellons 18 November 2014


Good point - they might be better off using an ICE. But they've probably gone with an EV format to invoke the enormous state subsidy which makes the venture viable. Just like EVs themselves, which could not survive without these huge dollops of taxpayers' money.
rustybkts 17 November 2014

Ha Ha, just another way to keep the oil companies in profit

The way these "Fool Cell" stories keep popping up is comical.
Do we really want a highly pressurised cylinder of hydrogen in the car?
Never mind when fuelling it.
The energy economics simply don't add up either and you are better off using hydrogen in a piston engine than in an incredibly inefficient fuel cell that is manufactured from rare metals.

Hydrogen is generally made from Natural Gas which is finite. We don't have enough anyway. It takes a lot of energy to manufacture it.

One thing we will never run out of is electricity and it is generated in a variety of ways.

Anyway, fool cell cars are simply expensive EV's with extremely expensive trickle chargers fuelled by a resource that is expensive to manufacture and inefficient to produce.

Compare that to the 1 - 2 pence a mile for EV's.

BTW Norma, BEV's are holding their prices very well. Try buying a six year old Nissan Leaf for less than £10,000.

Norma Smellons 17 November 2014

289 is right

Hydrogen slots into the existing infrastructure in a way EV chargers never will. It is also radically more attractive to the tax authorities, giving it a major boost as a future fuel. And the EV zealot slating the cost of hydrogen clearly ignores the shocking depreciation of EVs, not to mention the fortunes Toyota sank in the set-up of hybrids, back in the day.