BMW To Present Its First-Ever Hydrogen Fuel Cell Drive System At 2015 Detroit Auto Show

2 years ago by Eric Loveday 40

On Display At 2015 NAIAS - BMW's First Hydrogen Fuel Cell Stack

On Display At 2015 NAIAS – BMW’s First Hydrogen Fuel Cell Stack

bmwDespite rumors to the contrary, BMW is moving forward with its development of its first-ever hydrogen fuel cell drive system for electric cars.

Next month, at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show, BMW will display its prototype fuel cell drive module for electric cars.

Back in 2013, BMW and Toyota teamed up on joint development of hydrogen fuel cell systems.  Toyota’s Mirai fuel-cell vehicle has been unveiled, so now it’s time for BMW to show off its hydrogen hardware.

We should point out that what BMW displays in Detroit will be a next-generation system, more advanced and capable than what’s found in the Toyota Mirai.  In fact, this system, in some form, will likely power BMWs and Toyotas beginning in 2020 at the latest.

Naturally, BMW’s hydrogen fuel cell drive system will find a home in the BMW i sub-brand, which backs our speculative report that someday a BMW i5 will come with a hydrogen fuel cell system.

Look for us to post exclusive information on this and other topics live from the 2015 Detroit Auto Show.

Source: BMW

Press release:

The Detroit show will also see the first presentation of a drive module prototype revealing a structure for the drive and energy storage components, as well as their possible integration into a future Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle (FCEV). While pure battery-based electric vehicles specialize in covering mobility needs in urban metropolitan surroundings, hydrogen fuel cell drive systems offer electric mobility with a high operating range and very short refuelling times. This explains why hydrogen fuel cell technology is an integral long-term component of the BMW Group’s EfficientDynamics strategy. In order to take into account the particular requirements of this technology in cars and to utilize its potential as fully as possible, BMW is replicating its approach with its series-produced BMW i3 and BMW i8 models by focusing on a specific vehicle architecture for a future Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle. The fuel cell unit of the drive module includes the first fruits of the company’s cooperation with Toyota, the industry’s leading manufacturer of fuel cell technology. This builds on Toyota’s 2015 series production technology, which BMW and Toyota were able to adapt to suit the specific requirements of BMW.

Tags: , , ,

40 responses to "BMW To Present Its First-Ever Hydrogen Fuel Cell Drive System At 2015 Detroit Auto Show"

  1. Big Solar says:

    Sweet, more BS compliance cars.

  2. mehokie says:

    This is great news. The more fuel cell development in vehicles, the sooner the advancement of applications to the larger vehicles for which BEV are not optimal.

    1. Anon says:

      Couple non-optimal issues with hydrogen cars…

      1: there is STILL no standard way to dispense and sell hydrogen at the few existing fueling stations.

      2: hydrogen has to also be compressed to 10,000 PSI in an onboard tank (which will eventually need replaced, due to the way hydrogen interacts with matter). Rupturing one in a collision, would not be… Optimal.

      3: pure hydrogen gets created using electricity. It only carries energy used to create it. Making it out of fossil sources, involves unpleasant byproducts. The oil industry supports this method of sourcing the material for making hydrogen.

      4: the water vapor released from the toyota system is slightly acidic. This is not environmentally desirable.

      BEVs are the clear and cleaner technology, sorry.

      1. See Through says:

        FUD! It’s less dangerous than gasoline and EVs. Hydrogen being lightest, escape upwards quickly, unlike gasoline. Besides, the tank is much stronger as it can withstand 10000 psi anyway.

        1. wraithnot says:

          ” Hydrogen being lightest, escape upwards quickly, unlike gasoline. ”

          That’s a very bad thing in a poorly ventilated garage. Building codes require ignition sources in natural gas water heater to be at least 18 inches above a garage floor because gasoline vapors are heavier than air. As far as I am aware, no building codes have been created to anticipate parking a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle in a garage.

          1. Kaiser says:

            You won’t be able to keep any concentration of hydrogen sufficient to pose much danger. The Internet is full of research papers on this topic.

            1. wraithnot says:

              Here’s an extremely relevant study:

              Here are the most relevant parts:

              “”Both Test 1 and Test 2 create explosive atmosphere inside the GARAGE. For Test 1, only the upper-half volume (i.e., for measurement locations ≥ MiN4) of the GARAGE exceeds the lower flammability limit (LFL) of hydrogen (= 4.1% by volume). This takes approximately 6 hours to reduce the concentration levels below LFL. . . . In contrast, for Test 2, concentration levels inside the full volume of GARAGE exceed the LFL limit after about 500 seconds and remains above the LFL limit until 22 hours (from the start time of the helium gas injection inside the test facility)”

              The quote mentions helium because “Due to safety reasons, helium gas is used to simulate the hydrogen dispersion characteristics.”

              1. See Through says:

                How can they use something 4 times heavier than H2? Besides, all the Hydrogen cars have very sensitive sensors to alert of any leakage, if this happens at all.

                1. Wraithnot says:

                  Hydrogen gas is diatomic while helium gas is monatomic so the mass of the helium gas is only twice as high as hydrogen gas. The diffusion in air will be similar (the ratio between the two should be the square root of two). And what should you do if the hydrogen alarm goes off? Evacuate the house and call the hazmat team? Try to ventilate the garage without making any sparks?

        2. Big Solar says:

          Burning hydrogen is more dangerous than gas. You can’t see it in the daytime. EVs dont catch on fire except in extreme cases.

        3. Anon says:

          Not FUD at all… Learn some basic physics. Hydrogen slips between the atoms of the metal containers you put it in, while it makes said metal, brittle. The carbon wrapping will slow it down, but hydrogen WILL LEAK and it WILL POOL in underhangs; where it can easily be ignited. It’s also highly corrosive– ask NASA about their problems with hydrogen and fuel cells on the Space Shuttle. They eventually used GOLD to solve some of the corrosion problems.

          Toyota is counting on selling mucho replacement parts for these vehicles, as hydrogen does nasty things to most materials it comes in contact with. There is a reason you don’t find hydrogen lingering in a pure form on this planet…

          Putting it in cars, under high pressure, is simply retarded.

      2. offib says:

        Add this to the list, man:

        While at very low, current demands for Hydrogen, a good few stations (lterally) offer Hdrogen from electrolosis. While for many who promote hydrogen or any average joe who thinks it looks good on paper would see electrolosis as a solution, there’s a hell a lot more to know that will and wont play out in the real world.

        To manufacture 1kg of Hydrogen, 57kWh of energy will be needed to split the water. 1kg of Hydrogen can run a car for 60 miles. So, you can cell it efficient if you want to.

        This is coming from Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield who recently reviewed and learned from an FCX exhibition.

        If FCEVs were to be commercially popular, the only method to serve such a number of cars would be steam refreactioning, thus ruling out any possibilty of being sustainable. There’s also the lack of ability of someone doing their own effort able to make their own hydrogen at home without sending money to oil MNCs, for very obvious reasons.

        1. Kaiser says:

          I disagree. Solar is becoming incredibly cheap. When solar is effectively free, storage becomes the problem and electrolysis, even inefficient as it is, is a good solution. Efficiency doesn’t matter when your power is free.

        2. Kaiser says:

          If I drive 12K miles per year, I can supply my fuel cell car with locally produced hydrogen from electrolysis using a 10kw solar system running only three hours a day. Most homes can support a 10kw system; if they can’t, their neighbors’ can.

    2. pjwood says:

      You obviously mean EREVs

      1. taser54 says:

        Nope. Constrained by emissions.

  3. Brian says:

    This makes sense to me, and it’s more than just CARB compliance. Germany seems to be moving full-steam towards hydrogen. They are working on ways to convert their excess renewables into hydrogen. They have devised means to store massive amounts of hydrogen in underground caverns. They have been working on transporting hydrogen through existing natural gas pipelines. It only makes sense that their automakers would develop cars that run on the stuff.

    All that said, I don’t like hydrogen as a solution It is less efficient and more expensive than batteries. Plus, unless it is a plug-in with a decent battery, it removes the huge convenience of fueling your EV at home.

    I would love to see the i5 engineered and sold with two options – a plug-in FCV, and a large-battery BEV. Let the markets decide, even if different markets decide on different options.

    1. Bumr Dude says:

      You will be able to refuel H2 at home.

      Don’t know exact information yet.

      But it is on it’s way.

      1. wraithnot says:

        I don’t think I’d want a 10,000 psi hydrogen station in my garage. And I don’t have the extra room to comply with all the setback requirements that apply to a commercial hydrogen station ( – click on show all setbacks in the lower right corner)

        1. Kaiser says:

          I suspect the eventual home H2 refueling solution will look a lot like the existing natural gas line that’s used to run stoves and heaters. I don’t see a need to store hydrogen compressed on site. When the system is not in use it can be flushed with nitrogen for extra safety.

          1. wraithnot says:

            However you store the hydrogen, you will need to compress it to at least 10,000 PSI in order to fill the tank in the vehicle to 10,000 PSI.

      2. Brian says:

        Yeah, I’m with wraithnot. Even if you *can* fuel hydrogen at home, I wouldn’t want to.

        Save the hydrogen for heavy transport – namely trucks and the like. Leave the light transport to batteries.

    2. JakeY says:

      Unfortunately, judging from BMW’s record so far (what they did with the i3 vs i3 REx), we won’t be given two choices. We’ll be forced to go with one choice. And given 1 choice, the long range BEV is the much better choice (even though Toyota keeps trying to pretend it doesn’t exist).

      So far no manufacturer other than Tesla has offered larger battery options.

  4. Hydrogen is over $13kg at the newest H2 fueling facility in California. The $2,500,000 facility can service up to 70 cars per day.

    I greatly admire BMW, but this is auto show window dressing, not a consumer product.

    Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn sums up the situation very succinctly: “Where is the infrastructure? Who’s is going to build it?”

    At 100x the cost of EV charging stations, it will likely not happen once we see 200 mile range EVs at near mainstream prices.

    1. Bumr Dude says:

      Gasoline had no infrastructure at the start.

      It was built.

      Around a nasty solution like oil.

      H2 should be available at your house soon.

      1. Yeah, and Santa is going to come and drop some presents under my tree in a few days…

        Where is this magical hydrogen I produce at home going to come from? Splitting water? At what cost of electricity?

        Because I really want a compressor capable of 10,000 psi in my garage…

        And permitting for that should be no problem at all. My neighbors won’t mind.

        If you are thinking about hydrogen made from natural gas, where does the extra carbon you strip off the methane go? Catch and release?

        And then it still needs to be compressed to 10,000 psi.


        1. pjwood says:

          “Because I really want a compressor capable of 10,000 psi in my garage…”

          Will that do my sprinklers?

    2. ffbj says:

      You mean super filler network, across the world, for free. Man. I like Tesla’s future better.

  5. Victor says:

    This will be another compliance car that will be sold only in California. It’s not commercially viable.

  6. ffbj says:

    The future is already being supplanted?

  7. wraithnot says:

    I was skeptical when BMW first announced the i3 and now we have one in our garage so I won’t make up my mind until I hear more details. If it has a plug and 80 miles of electric range and only uses the hydrogen as a range extender then they would have to build a lot fewer $2,000,000 hydrogen stations. Of course, at that point why bother with the hydrogen fuel cell for a range extender? Wouldn’t a gasoline engine be a more practical range extender as in the Volt and i3 REx?

    1. Bill Howland says:


      Carlos Ghosn was initially a big supporter of H2, but lately he has decided to emphasize EV’s and let others work out the very big problems with H2 fueled vehicles.

      Hydrogen may sound good, but in the final analysis I don’t think there is going to be sufficient monies available for widespread implementation.

      The point is made that at one time there were no gas stations. That’s true, but alot of big – monied interests wanted them, and got help from companies like GM, who single-handedly, through front companies, bought up almost the entire nation’s Trolley car and also some partial subway systems (the beautiful Los Angeles Complex comes to mind), all to ensure people had to have gasoline powered automobiles and buses to get around.

      Gasoline interests still exist. Those interests have no big incentive to pursue an alternate infrastructure since they have a currently profitable one in use every day.

      1. See Through says:

        Nissan neither has any hybrid tech nor fuel cell. I think, Carlos Ghosn will be left alone to weep very soon.

        1. wraithnot says:

          If Nissan can delivery a LEAF with more than 150 miles of real world range for the same price as the current LEAF then his weeping will be tears of joy.

  8. Carlos Ghosn on the prospects for Hydrogen FCVs:

    Really hard to come up with practical answers to his questions.

    1. sven says:

      Third time’s a charm! 😉

  9. Cavaron says:

    A lot talk about compressing hydrogen here. 10,000 psi compressors are loud an heavy – there was a Van which had one built in. It acompanied the Mercedes FCV which traveled around the world. I surely don’t want that at home.

    But you can always store hydrogen in a metalised lithium isotope. Thats very easy and convinient. Trade off is, that if there is a nuclear explosion close to the lithium isotope, it will work as fuel for it and magnifies the explosion. Thats the reason why it’s forbidden to buy/sell lithium isotopes in the US.