While the VW Group and Mercedes-Benz apparently no longer believe in the fuel cell, BMW is now taking the next step and bringing the technology into series production in the iX5 Hydrogen. Even if only in a small one. Because the Munich-based company does not want to build more than 100 cars, and even those are only rented out and not sold. From six kilos of hydrogen, electricity for 500 kilometers can be produced on board.
The cars do not feel like manual work, but about maturity and series. And above all to BMW. After all, the Bavarians install the currently most powerful fuel cell in the car with a system output of 401 hp. This is enough for acceleration to 100 km/h in less than six seconds and a top speed of 185 km/h. And unlike in a battery-electric car, you do this without worrying about the on-board computer. Because neither a heavy gas foot nor the cold winter weather erode the range more than we have learned with the combustion engine. And refuelling is almost as fast as with petrol or diesel. Only water vapor comes out of the exhaust.
However, fuel cell technology cannot do without a battery. Because the fuel cell needs some time to start up and because as much braking energy as possible is to be recovered, behind the two carbon-woven tanks for the hydrogen is still a 10 kWh buffer storage tank. But that's not even half as much as in the X5 plug-in hybrid, and an iX needs eleven times as much.
If you absolutely need an alternative to the battery and if you have the technology so well under control, why only a small series? Because the time is not quite ripe yet, Chief Development Officer Frank Weber asks for a little patience. "But there is more dynamism in it than ever before," he says, "and we want to be at the forefront when the time comes." Weber believes that it could be "so far" sooner than everyone thinks and is aiming – once again – for the next three to five years. For the electric "New Class" from BMW, which should be ready in 2025, and is the technically and entrepreneurially largest project in BMW's history, not only batteries, but also the fuel cell are on schedule.