BMW Prototype Hydrogen Fuel Cell – First Drive


BMW 5 Series GT Hydrogen Fuel Cell Car

BMW 5 Series GT Hydrogen Fuel Cell Car

BMW first started with hydrogen powered cars with the Hydrogen 7 in 2005, a 7 Series run by an electric motor which was powered by a hydrogen fuel cell, though BMW first started making hydrogen fuel cells in 1999. This was actually a pretty large success, with many celebrities, like Jay Leno buying them. While not a commercial success, it got the word out that hydrogen cars are a viable option for the future, and that in itself is a success.

BMW has now created another FCEV (Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle) hydrogen powered vehicle, a demonstration vehicle to test out new technologies. The vehicle is based on a BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo and uses a 245hp electric motor and high-voltage battery, similar to the ones used in BMW’s eDrive and i Division plug-in hybrids. A tunnel tank, used to store hydrogen, is mounted in between the two axles.

*Editor’s Note: This post appears on BMWBLOG by Horatiu Boeriu. Check it out here.

BMW Hydrogen Fuel Cell

BMW Hydrogen Fuel Cell

BMW 5 Series GT Hydrogen Fuel Cell Car

BMW 5 Series GT Hydrogen Fuel Cell Car

BMW uses a 700 bar CGH2 storage vessel or a 350 bar BMW patented cryogenic pressure storage vessel. The cryogenic tank allows BMW to store gaseous hydrogen at low temperatures at 350 bar pressure, with an operating range of 500km (310 miles), giving a smaller tank similar range to a gasoline powered vehicle. Much of these technologies are results of the continued partnership between BMW and Toyota. It is worth nothing that even before the development on the 5 Series GT hydrogen fuel cell started, BMW has developed an i8 hydrogen fuel cell car which was used for internal testing at the secret facility in Miramas, France.

BMW 5 Series GT Hydrogen Fuel Cell Car

BMW 5 Series GT Hydrogen Fuel Cell Car

Some of the main benefits for this FCEV hydrogen fuel cell technology are the size and range. Pure EVs are usually quite small, to conserve weight and be aerodynamic, but hydrogen powered cars don’t have to be. They can be big luxury cars like the 5er GT, because the hydrogen fuel cell can be refilled in minutes at a station, so conservation isn’t absolutely necessary, though it is desired. Also, because hydrogen fuel cells can be refilled so quickly and they last so long, a hydrogen powered car makes for a fine long distance machine. No need to stop every 80 miles to charge for three hours, just stop at the closest station that sells hydrogen fuel and fill up like you would a gasoline car. This is also beneficial to BMW i models, which could use a bit of help in the range department.

BMW 5 Series GT Hydrogen Fuel Cell Car

BMW 5 Series GT Hydrogen Fuel Cell Car

BMW Prototype Hydrogen Fuel Cell – First Drive

The interior of the 5 Series GT prototype is almost identical with the production series car, the only things that give it away are a red emergency stop button which cuts off the entire system, if needed. There is also a revised speedometer specific to the functionality of a hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicle. The cylindrical tank housing the hydrogen takes the entire central tunnel of the car, so a lot of retrofitting had to be done to this 5 Series GT prototype. In line with the lightweight construction philosophy, the prototype also feature several carbon fiber parts, like the roof, the lift gate in the rear and the wheels (a combination of carbon fiber and aluminum).

The 160 kilogram tank is made of aluminum reinforced with steel and wrapped with a carbon fiber reinforced plastic. A radiation shield is also wrapped around the tank, and the tank’s end caps are welded aluminum castings. Thanks to a life expectancy of up to 350 bar internal pressure and an elaborate insulation surrounding the actual tank, the -210 to -230 degrees Celsius stored hydrogen can remain in the tank for a long time, even several weeks after it has been refilled. This is lot colder than the 700-bar system’s -40C temperature.

BMW Prototype Hydrogen Fuel Cell – First Drive

BMW Hydrogen Fuel Cell

BMW Hydrogen Fuel Cell

BMW Hydrogen Fuel Cell

BMW also demonstrated the refilling process which is as simple as in a conventional car: open the fuel filler flap, remove a small cap, align the hydrogen hose and push forward until it locks. The system now checks automatically if the connection is absolutely airtight and the insulated hose is cleaned by a thrice-run pump before the actual fueling begins. The prototype comes with a 7.1 kilogram tank which took less than five minutes to refill. The 237 kWh of energy stored will give you 500km (310 miles) driving range.

Just like an electric car, the hydrogen fuel cell prototype is silent upon starting, but after a few minutes the first noises can be heard inside the cabin, an indication that the fuel cell system has kicked in. BMW says that the louder than usual noises heard in the prototype are normal for the stage of this development and a future production car will address that. The car operates with a two-speed hydraulic automatic transmission which shifts at around 80-90 km/h. There is a slight hissing sound during heavy acceleration and we’re told it’s from a pump passing hydrogen and air through the fuel cells stack.

When the driver pushes on the acceleration, the system tells the fuel cell stack to push hydrogen onto an anode plate, where each hydrogen atom is broken into protons and electrons. The protons migrate through polymer cell membranes to reach the positively charged cathode. Next, they react with oxygen creating water steam. Talk about high-tech here!

BMW Hydrogen Fuel Cell

BMW Hydrogen Fuel Cell

With the help of air and hydrogen fed through the fuel cell, the system produces energy which is stored in an accumulator. The lithium-ion battery with a capacity of 1kWh is enough to add to the torque and propulsion.

The core fuel cell stacks are a Toyota technology, with BMW supplying the new hydrogen tank, electric drive train and high voltage battery. A fuel cell stack should last around 5,000 hours or 200,000 km (125,000 miles). BMW says 200 to 400 cell-stacks can be fitted in the stack, depending on the power you want to achieve.

BMW Hydrogen Fuel Cell

BMW Hydrogen Fuel Cell

BMW Hydrogen Fuel Cell

BMW Hydrogen Fuel Cell

BMW let us take the prototype through a closed-off track where we had the chance to test it through various driving modes and loads. Despite its large size, the 5 GT prototype felt agile with power immediately available upon pressing the pedal; it reminded us of the i3 driving style, but more dynamic. For quick acceleration, the car uses the rear electric motor with 160 kW (214 hp) to deliver promptly the power needed to the rear wheels. This is the next generation electric motor, basically an improvement over the current i3 motor.

When running at low loads the fuel cell is 65 efficient efficient in turning the hydrogen fuel into forward motion. Under heavy load, that drops to 45 percent, a little better than a diesel engine. A petrol engine is about 36 percent efficient.

The 5 Series GT Hydrogen Fuel Cell can still hit 100 km/h (62 mph) from stationary in 8.4 seconds.




Now, hydrogen stations aren’t the most common things out there. We know this. It’s very rare that you’d see one in your average American town, as they mostly reside in big cities like Los Angeles, Chicago and New York. However, the infrastructure is growing and quite rapidly. Countries like the US, Germany, China, South Korea and Japan are all accelerating their growth of automotive hydrogen fuel cell infrastructures. Japan is heavily investing in infrastructure as the country gears up for the 2020 Olympic Games where they aim to emphasize the progress of hydrogen fuel cell, a strategy that will highlight the independence from conventional fuel resources. Germany currently has 50 hydrogen filling stations, by 2023 the goal is to have at least 400.

BMW and Toyota’s aim is to have an initial group of approved components by the year 2020, though FCEV vehicles depend on the development of a hydrogen fuel structure. So hopefully, within the next few years, hydrogen fill-up stations will be far more common.

Hydrogen fuel cell technology is also a must for our future. As our natural resources start to dry up, hydrogen becomes the best resource for sustainable energy, in not only the automobile industry but for everything. Electricity is very difficult to harness cleanly otherwise, as things like solar power and windmills can only do so much. But hydrogen is infinitely renewable, easy and fast, and most importantly, clean. Hydrogen fuel cells leave zero emissions behind, as the only byproduct of a hydrogen fuel cell is water.

It just makes so much sense for BMW to pursue such technologies. Using hydrogen fuel cells to power electric motors gives BMWs the kind of power and performance their customers are used to with incredible efficiency and no charge times. It’s also the cleanest form of energy we can use and is the most abundant source of energy in our known universe. While pure battery-powered electric vehicles are primarily used for city driving and short distances, the fuel cell technology provides the ideal solution for customers looking for a high driving range with zero emissions. The technology is also aimed at cars larger in size, like those 5 Series and above models.

BMW utilizing FCEV technology is a slam dunk and one that will hopefully come to our streets quite soon.

Video of driving car on the track:

Category: BMWTest Drives

Tags: ,

39 responses to "BMW Prototype Hydrogen Fuel Cell – First Drive"
  1. european point of view says:

    Very interesting and well documented . congrats .

  2. Thomas J. Thias says:

    H2 Fuel

    “However, The Infrastructure Is Growing And Quite Rapidly”


    Only 12 Hydrogen Public Fueling Stations in the whole USA!

    At $2,000,000 per station using primairly US Tax Payer monies suporting for now, the products of foriegn companies on American soil of Toyota Honda And Hyundai,this non exhisting Hydrogen Fueling Station infrastructure has been static at 12 total, USA since mid 2014.

    Link Goes To Department Of Energy, Alternative Fuels Data Center, Updated, 07.20.2015.

    Link Goes To Screen Shot Of Current USA Map-


    Thomas J. Thias

    1. Forever green says:

      +1 Thomas

    2. Kaiser says:

      I think this is the map you want:

      As with all future vehicle technologies, one needs to be forward looking. Otherwise Tesla hasn’t profit, has sold a pittance of cars, and will never reduce their battery costs.

      1. Thomas J. Thias says:


        The Deep Look:

        “Hydrogen Network Investment Plan”
        October 11th,2013

        Link Is To pdf Version-

        California Air Resources Board

        2015 Annual Evaluation of Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle Deployment and Hydrogen Fuel Station Network Development

        Link Goes To Report PDF-


        Thomas J. Thias



  3. RS says:

    The problem with this cooled H2 tank, is the missing infrastructure. Todays fueling stations are built to the Mirai fuel tanks. Like they said in the 3rd picture, it will hold 2.3 kg of CGH2, thats just 100 miles of range. So they would have to add 2 extra tanks to give it 300 miles, with the filling stations built today…

  4. James says:

    I love these comedy articles, a little bit of April Fools humar to brighten your day in the middle of August!

    The mental image I had of someone driving a hydrogen powered car “long” distances, with a mobile hydrogen filling station following them around (see picture above) was priceless.

    On a serious note: There is only ONE actual long distance zero emmission vehicle in existence today and it is a BEV from California!

  5. Joe says:

    This has to be a paid advertisement. There are so many factually incorrect statements in here it’s really quite entertaining.

    1. Chris O says:


  6. Stimpy says:

    “It just makes so much sense for BMW to pursue such technologies.”

    You tell us, BMW PR!

    Seriously this tripe makes me think about unsubscribing to insideevs.

  7. Anon says:


    350 bar is 5,076.3 psi, and 700 bar is about the same as Toyotoa’s Mirai Tank pressure of over 10,152 psi.

    I like how they’re trying to ‘hide’ the huge tank pressures, by avoiding the more common psi units. Units more people have a practical grasp of. 😛

    Nice Try, BMW. 😛

  8. Jelloslug says:

    I love the reason stated for why BEVs have a short range and hydrogen cars have a long range.

  9. Rick Danger says:

    ~~”It just makes so much sense for BMW to pursue such technologies. Using hydrogen fuel cells to power electric motors gives BMWs the kind of power and performance their customers are used to with incredible efficiency and no charge times. It’s also the cleanest form of energy we can use and is the most abundant source of energy in our known universe. While pure battery-powered electric vehicles are primarily used for city driving and short distances, the fuel cell technology provides the ideal solution for customers looking for a high driving range with zero emissions.”~~

    There is so much wrong with this paragraph that I don’t even know where to start. The rest are no better.

    +1 to all the other posters here who called you out on it.

    I see no one at IEVs had the courage to put their name on this piece of garbage. Shame on all of you.

    1. Chris O says:

      Shameful indeed but I’m guessing doing the occasional “sponsored” article like this helps paying the bills and since nobody who knows anything about this stuff takes it seriously anyway there is really not much harm done.

      The fact that BMW appears to be sponsoring articles like this is interesting though and puts its supposedly ambitious plug-in program in a new light.

    2. Wraithnot says:

      +1 I’d really like to know how this article was allowed to be published on this web site. I think some sort of explanation from the members of the “InsideEVs staff” responsible for posting something that basically parrots the main points from the Lexus anti-EV ads is in order.

  10. MikeM says:

    Hey folks! Get with the program!

    After all, “It just makes so much sense”.
    (cough, cough)

  11. Djoni says:

    It’s undoubtly an technical achievement!
    It’s undoubtly an advertising BS!
    Hydrogen does not exist as a abundant readily available ressource.
    You have to dislocated the atom to whatever it is bond to at the expense of a lot of, clean or not so clean, energy.
    O.K. BMW you showed us your technical advance.
    Still doesn’t make any practical sense so far, but if you translate it to heavy transportation with the energy source from totaly renewable, I would applaud gladely.
    But stop your BS ecological about what is not please!
    Because everything is green then.

  12. Chris O says:

    This article is a total sell out to the hydrogen lobby and has no place in this form on a blog that pretends to be about EVs, which HFCVs really aren’t as it’s really the fuel that defines a vehicle rather than what drives the wheels.

    It pretends that HFCVs solve the range issues of EVs as if the Model S was never invented and has the gall to literally say
    “Hydrogen fuel cell technology is also a must for our future” as it is somehow a “resource of sustainable energy”. Well no it’s not a source of energy it’s just an intermediate energy carrier that can be used to store sustainably generated energy but only at a loss of 2 out of 3 sustainably generated electrons compared to batteries which doesn’t make this technology a “must for the future” but the sort of total waste that this planet can ill afford.

  13. M Hovis says:

    When a hydrogen station that reforms from 100% renewables exists 5 miles from my home and the FCV is an EREV selling for $30,000, I will consider. Otherwise, the promised future is inferior to my current scenario on range, environment, and performance.

    1. kdawg says:

      I’d still pass. My plug-in car fills up at home overnight while I sleep. It’s also orders of magnitude cheaper to fill up.

  14. MikeM says:

    On a more sober note;
    This reminds me a little of an atomic power plant in that it requires full time active management of the fuel or bad things can happen.

    So, not only is there 24 hour a day continuous energy drain to maintain cryogenic fuel temperature, but if the system should fail, the H2 must be vented (bye bye H2!) or the tank goes BOOM!

    The mind boggles at the sheer complexity of all this.

  15. Chris O says:

    The cryogenic tank sounds like a must have if hydrogen is really to deliver on its promise of long range for heavy vehicles but it also sounds like more complexity and cost for a technology that people will not pay a premium over gasoline for.

  16. philip d says:

    Evs have to be small? HFCVs can be big luxury cars but EVS cant? EVS have to charge for hours and can only go 80 miles between charges?

    I guess the Inside EVS staff have never heard of that American car company called Tesla?

    I’m really disappointed with this site for writing such an article that intentionally skews the facts with the intent to disparage the technology of EVs. I would like to hear their reasoning and a logical defense for this article.

    1. Jay Cole says:

      InsideEVs didn’t write the article, it is a cross-post from BMWBlog.

      The thinking originally was to offer some context/prospective from another site on plugins/FCVs. That being said the tie-up doesn’t seem to have worked that well.

      Either people think InsideEVs themselves is writing it (despite the prominent disclaimer at the top of the articles), or that the slant towards BMW is too great and we should be editing the content (which we really can’t do as part of the sharing deal).

      So the experiment wasn’t a success…we will move on to the next one. As a point of interest, we are winding down that partnership over the next few days (we have a couple stories left in the queue to put out still).

      1. wraithnot says:

        Thanks for the clarification. I’m glad the staff at InsideEVs isn’t ignorant enough to write such an article:

        “Either people think InsideEVs themselves is writing it (despite the prominent disclaimer at the top of the articles)”

        All I see at the top of this article is “InsideEVs Staff”. And while the article does now mention the author’s name after the second paragraph, I don’t remember seeing anything other that the standard “This post appears on BMWBLOG. Check it out here” on the original version of the article. And I wouldn’t really call that a “prominent disclaimer” that the article wasn’t written by InsideEVs and then cross-posted to BMWBLOG.

        1. Jay Cole says:

          Well, all the pics are also tagged BMWBlog, but I do understand what is happening…and the frustration over the content as our two sites have different prime focuses.

          Again, we like to try different things, this just didn’t work out so well. We fix, we move on, (=

          1. wraithnot says:

            Fair enough. And I see the photo credits now. But that is not something I generally look for.

      2. no comment says:

        part of the criticism is from elon musk fanboys, who would criticize *any* reporting about FCEVs. what the fanboys don’t understand is that many auto makers are investigating FCEVs; that doesn’t mean that they are ready for prime time, but in all honesty, BEVs aren’t either.

        as to the articles from the bmwblog, many of those articles are so over the top, in terms of being little more than bmw advertisements, that they don’t really provide much information value.

        1. James says:

          Tesla BEVs are ready for prime time. Sure they are expensive, but not more expensive than a Toyota Mirai (cost price).

          So imagine this, rather than produce a Mirai like POS, BMW built a Model S like BEV with a 300 mile range, using the Tesla SC’ers (if Tesla will allow it, which they have already said they would) and then sold it in limited numbers like Toyota does with the Mirai at a loss. That would be much more interesting and it would actually help to move the industry forward, not to mention take some of the steam out of Tesla’s sales (no bad thing for BMW).

          Or if they wanted BMW could sell it for 120k USD and actually make money on the cars! I’m sure there are still plenty of people out there who would buy it over a Model S. And over time this is the sort of activity that will actually move us closer to affordable BEVs with sensible range and charging capabilities.

          In a nut shell that is why I find FCEVs so frustrating, it just a waste of time used to show that car manufacturers are doing SOMETHING, while actually doing nothing, so that their existing sales aren’t canniblised by new product lines!

    2. JakeY says:

      I know this wasn’t written by InsideEVs staff (they know better), but it does read like it was written by someone who lives in an alternate world where Tesla doesn’t exist. However, that’s par for the course for a lot of hydrogen promoters (Toyota makes the same argument too, even though a few years ago they were partnering with Tesla).

    3. philip d says:

      Thanks for the clarification Jay. I missed the disclaimer probably because I was reading the article on my much smaller phone. I apologize for sounding downright angry but at that point I hadn’t had any coffee yet.

      1. Jay Cole says:

        It is absolutely no worries. Again, without feedback, we really don’t have a way of telling of something is being received overall, or if we should cover something or not.

        …in this case, the people have spoken, (=

  17. mustang_sallad says:

    Pretty sure the 7-series hydrogen cars used a combustion engine. End result being that tank to wheels efficiency was half that of a FCEV.

  18. Nelson says:

    I would imagine dealers like FCEV because they would no longer need to get helium tanks for their balloons.
    Just fill the balloons up with hydrogen and make sure no one lights a match.

    NPNS! SBF!

  19. Lou Grinzo says:

    I suspect that in terms of real-world market presence and environmental impact BMW HFCVs will have roughly the same result as the BMW Hydrogen 7 (hydrogen ICE).

  20. Wraithnot says:

    “No need to stop every 80 miles to charge for three hours, just stop at the closest station that sells hydrogen fuel and fill up like you would a gasoline car.”

    How on earth can this statement be published on an EV enthusiast web site in the year 2015? I’ve lost a great deal of respect for InsideEVs after reading this article.

    Can other commenters point me to less biased places to get information on alternative fuel vehicles?

    1. MikeM says:

      “No need to stop every 80 miles to charge for three hours”

      Let’s see – Here in Western Oregon in my ’14 Leaf, when I’m not charging at home overnight, I stop every 50-60 miles for ≤1/2 hour.
      That’s in a car that actually exists, now, today and is soon to be superseded.

      I see the EV disinformation mill is still cranking out the horsefeathers.

      Note to self: “Just stop at the closest station that sells hydrogen fuel” and check it out.
      I’ll let y’all know how it pans out!

  21. no comment says:

    one thing that strikes me about FCEVs is that they seem to require more maintenance than do BEVs, although i suspect that they require less maintenance than do ICEs.

  22. Bill Howland says:

    I’m rather surprised at the low efficiency of the fuel cell but am relatively impressed as to its life, 125,000 miles as they say here. Wonder if they change that to ‘UP TO 125,000’ in the future, as these things go.

    OF course, they list the 45%- 65% FUEL cell efficiency compared to the 36% Ice efficiency which is a bogus comparison, but its constantly made in these articles so I just note it but won’t try to refute it.

    More to basics, I don’t get why all these manufacturers are getting on the bandwagon. Since Price of Fuel is a consideration (of course Petrol is artificially high in Europe so perhaps I’ve answered my own question), in the States at least the pricing between Hydrogen and Gasoline doesn’t seem to be compelling, and it seems it will never have an advantage, since Natural Gas pricing is absolutely as low as it will ever be. (I currently pay 1.6 cents per kwh for Natural Gas, and, seeing as I get 3 1/4 cents overage per kwh for my overbuilt solar system, any additional fuel is STILL cheaper for me to use GAS than free electricity. I don’t expect this situation to last for very many more years, which means that even in this country, the cost of producing steam-reformulated H2 will be going up not coming down, making the ‘value’ of hydrogen going forward ‘worse’ not ‘better’.