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 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 A7 at the Los Angeles motor show next week, suggesting that it is also preparing to throw its hat into the fuel cell ring.