Rumormill: BMW Working On Fuel Cell i3

AUG 22 2014 BY STAFF 59

BMW i3

BMW i3

BMW i3 To Someday Be Powered By Hydrogen?

BMW i3 To Someday Be Powered By Hydrogen?

Latest rumor is that by 2016 BMW will launch a hydrogen-fueled version of its i3 with help from Toyota’s fuel cell technology.

A source speaking to during a recent visit to the US, the Torrance California (USA) based National Manager Advanced Technology Vehicles intimated strongly that BMW would leverage Toyota technology in a fuel cell version of the new-generation i car.

Answering questions regarding the rollout of fuel cell vehicles into the Californian and US markets, Scott stated:

“We have a joint partnership with BMW, so we know… where they’re headed.”

“It’s a technology development program where we are supposed to be jointly developing a fuel cell powertrain.”

“I’ll just say that BMW had a lot of choices – there are a lot of people who make fuel cells – and we’re very happy they chose us. [But] They’ve never made a fuel cell before, so this is going to be a good experience, I think, for them and probably for us.”

“How much joint is involved I’m not sure. But, you know, I think both companies have a lot to learn from each other.”

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

When asked whether BMW will use Toyota’s series-production fuel cell technology in a fuel cell version of the i3, Scott suggested crash test regulations would play the biggest part of the integration program.

“It’s just going to come down to meeting crash [testing requirements]… So they’re going to have to find a way to package it [Toyota’s fuel cell stack in the i3] such that they can meet [safety regulations].”

“If there were no regulations, per se, then you would put it anywhere you like. But… there would probably be some reinforcement of the chassis, for some parts, to make sure that there’s no infringement during a high-speed accident. The same thing for the [hydrogen] tanks.”

BMW is no stranger of hydrogen-fueled cars. The company has previously shown a 7 Series Hydrogen and a 1 Series Hydrogen-powered.

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59 Comments on "Rumormill: BMW Working On Fuel Cell i3"

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Big Solar

Leave it to BMDub


ugggh, head slap!

David Murray

As long as it still has 80-ish miles of EV range and the fuel cell replaces the gasoline Rex, I’m fine with that. That actually makes sense.

Josh Bryant

This sounds like it would be FC only. But it may be a California only thing for the extra credits.


It would be a grab for CA CARB hydrogen credits.

It’s too bad that some people don’t / won’t consider where their hydrogen comes from when making purchasing decisions. If you like fracking and changing climate, enjoy fueling your vehicle with converted (green washed)hydrocarbons.



There is no way I would give up the convenience of charging at home. Using Fuel Cells as the REX would be and improvement over using gas, but don’t shrink the battery.

Carl Schmitt

Not really. If hydrogen is stored as cryogenic fluid, as it heats up over time, some of it will be blown off via an over pressure valve. So, if you don’t use that fuel cell Rex on a regular basis the tanks will empty themselves. Not great.




If they put a direct bioethanol fuel cell instead of the motorbike engine as a Rex that would be a good move but if they put an Hydrogen Fool Cell instead that would not make much sense and certainly not less fossil impact then plain gasoline.

Big Solar

I know, gas is as good as hydrogen.

Big Solar

and that ain’t sayin much….!

CounterStrike Cat

bioethanol = burning food and forests.


Not really if you choose your base materials (waste, algae, shrub) and wood is at least cycling CO2 instead of adding ever more to the atmosphere. It is also a much smaller quantity if only used for range extending.

Big Solar

its already in place and dosent cost as much to store. imagine how much FC stations will cost to put in….


In 2016 they’ll tell us there’s a rumor that in 2018 BMW will be releasing a fuel-cell i3 with help from Toyota.

We’ve heard it all before. Keep your fuel cells.


When will car makers realize that it is not the fuel cell that is the issue, but current and future supply of hydrogen and hydrogen infrastructure? Just because it is feasible to run a car with a fuel cell doesn’t mean it actually makes sense to build one. Every dollar invested into fuel cell tech is a dollar that could have gone into battery research and charging infrastructure.


Its the California ARB that is really pushing this. Make the zev credits and access the same for bev and fuel cell, and the manufactures will only produce dozens of fuel cell vehicles…


If they replace the Rex, well, it’s worth a try. If they rip out 80% of the battery a to go for hydrogen as the major source of fuel… well, there goes the lead of BMW in E-Car tec (lightweight wise at least, in case of battery supply Tesla/Panasonic is leading with LG Chem on their toes).


I’m confused. They are proposing to put a fuel cell power train into an i3? Where are they going to fit the hydrogen tanks in this small car? Will it be giving up the back seat?

As for previous hydrogen-fueled BMWs, I thought that they actually used a combustion motor rather than a fuel cell / electric motor. Maybe this is what Toyota is bringing to the table?


Fuel cells give around twice the fuel economy of burning hydrogen in a combustion engine.

Anton Wahlman

But what the consumer cares about is price. Let’s forget the price of the car for a moment (dependent on volumes and time, naturally). What about the price of the fuel? Toyota announced last week that in the near term it will be de-facto twice that of gasoline, and not equal parity with gasoline even in approximately a decade from now. So in that context, I don’t think that the consumer will agree that it’s got twice the fuel economy of a regular Prius today. It will cost $50 to drive 300 miles versus $24 with a Prius.



And one quarter the efficiency of BEV!


That is not true anymore for the new Toyota free piston generator since it has a better yield then their best fuel cell.

Jesse Gurr

Theoretically they could. The FCV that are coming out have 100kW fuel cells. The i3 doesn’t need that much power if it is keeping the battery the same. How much does the gas engine output now? 20-30kW? Make the fuel cell that small.

Make the H2 tank only hold about 1-2kg, like they did with the gas tank in the current one.

Now you don’t need so much room.


As usual, its great to see how open minded folk are.

Its also interesting that guys on blogs know so very much more than just about every automaker capable of building fuel cell cars on the planet.

Closed minds have their own little world though, so enjoy.

Alonso Perez

Well, unless the automakers know of some new science where electrolysis can be done more efficiently than now thought to be possible (not to mention actually doable), then it’s just simple math. Energy to hydrogen conversion requires much more energy loss than battery charging.

In fact, currently known electrolysis is prohibitive as a fuel source, while hydrogen from gas cracking is made by releasing CO2.

I have never seen anybody claim, not even the automakers involved with fuel cells, that they had a new form of electrolysis in the works, battery level efficiency. So the logical conclusion is that they don’t. Nor would they, since their research is on the use end, not the production end.

So we know that fuel cell cars will be much more expensive to run even than gas cars. You don’t need a closed mind to see that it is not viable. You just need to do a little math.

Mr. Electric

Everyone who blindly absorbs Musk’s propaganda, ironically, lacks vision. Hydrogen can be produced from algae in addition to reformation, etc. It has the highest energy density of all fuels and can refuel cars very quickly. Infrastructure already exists in the form of hundreds of thousands of existing gas stations which can be adapted to store trucked hydrogen. Most importantly, hydrogen is light; cars don’t have to carry hundreds of pounds of dead weight battery–so inefficient.

It’s funny that EV proponents like to think battery breakthroughs are just around the corner, but piss on the idea that disruptive innovation can occur with other fuel sources.


Hydrogen is light,but the tank that can hold back 10 000 psi pressure are quite heavy and cumbersome.
1 kg of hydrogen take a lot of space if not compressed dramaticaly.
In fact the Hyundai Tucson Hydrogen is actually heavier than the gaz one, with lot less space inside.
So not that light I guess


I would rather carry around a 1,300 lb battery and pay $0.04 per mile than a 10,000 PSI tank (several of them, actually) and pay $0.20 per mile.


If you are using algea, wouldn’t biodiesel be cheaper than hydrogen. Put the biodiesel in a 60 mile PHEV and it will probably be much less expensive for the car…. That is the magic. How do you make the fuel and car cost competitive with a phev? Until you get costs down, hydrogen is going to be relegated to government mandate.

Alonso Perez
There is nothing in an existing gas station that can be used to store or dispense hydrogen, so there is no infrastructure there to leverage, unless you count as infrastructure the space occupied by an existing station. Hydrogen’s energy density is high, but by weight. By volume it’s very low in gas form, which is why you need the highly pressurized tanks. Liquid hydrogen, which is what rockets use, is out of the question because of constant loss through evaporation (or energy to keep it at cryogenic temperatures). I think hydrogen may have a role for grid energy storage. Although there is an efficiency cost, it scales well because you just need to add tanks and in a fixed installation you don’t even need pressure to be that high since space is not as critical as in automotive vehicle applications. So I am not an anti-hydrogen zealot. I just think the math clearly shows it cannot compete with BEVs, as does reality, by the way. There are now nearly 250,000 EVs. Hydrogen, which has been promised for more than 10 years, is nowhere to be seen. The Honda only made about 50 units of the Clarity. Toyota is talking in… Read more »
Surprisingly the engineers involved are rather good at math. They plan and Audi are already using the process heat, so giving an efficiency of electrolysis and heat of over 80%. To be clear I favour battery electric cars, so long as they can be really powered on low carbon energy. That is no problem with my preferred sources, as I would use a lot of nuclear which is deliverable on demand and also has a surplus overnight when BEVs are actually usually charged. The German’s though don’t fancy that, so are engineering renewables which actually can supply the power, by means of storing it as hydrogen. That in my view is better than having a solar panel and falsely claiming that is what is running your car. It ain’t, it is the grid, with good old coal included. To favour lots and lots of renewables whilst ignoring storage issues, and importantly, winter, is to evade the issue and the figures turned out for supposed ‘efficiency’ are fake as they are not comparing like for like, as hydrogen deals with the storage issue and renewables without don’t. Nuclear essentially solves the storage issue, and potentially although much more expensively hydrogen storage… Read more »

Well, maybe the case wher you live, but up here in scandinavia we have rather clean grids.
Ouer battery electrics are running very clean.


If you are in Norway you have a low population and lots of mountains and so can use hydro.
That is hardly relevant to most places.

If you are in Sweden you have lots of nuclear.

So what is your point?


Nuclear is a short term idea that give us long term problem, like hundred thousand year to overcome, if we survive it!

Josh Bryant

A bit OT, but you say that nuclear is “on demand”. That is not really true. A nuclear plant can only change its output 5% per hour. Electricity demand often changes more than rapidly than that. That is why it is typically used as base load power, or in regions where excess can be sent to other grids.

Nuclear would benefit from time shifting energy storage, just as much as renewables would.

Josh Bryant

Scratch that, re-checked my old source 5% per min not hour. That isn’t so bad.


Actually economically if not technically you need some storage with nuclear.

It is a couple of orders of magnitude less of a problem than for renewables though, as nuclear is 24/7, summer and winter.


“Merely having an open mind is nothing. The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.”

~G.K. Chesterton

Yes, approach a new problem with an open mind. Take in all you can. Then make an informed decision. You are no stranger to this idea either, as you have decided that 1) FCVs are viable (reinforced by the large amounts of money invested in them) 2) nuclear is the best way off of fossil fuels (at least in the near term), amongst other conclusions.

Others have decided that FCVs are a poor choice because 1) the energy economics are inferior to BEVs 2) fuel cells are expensive (typically requiring expensive metals such as platinum) 3) the hydrogen infrastructure has lots of catching up to do with even the EV charging infrastructure. The list goes on.


Don’t you ever wonder why lots of very bright people are not writing them off if it is as open and shut as you say?

It ain’t.

Alonso Perez

Well, it does not take much wondering, actually. Some very bright people work for oil companies, and hydrogen keeps oil companies relevant in not one but two ways.

First, hydrogen can be obtained from natural gas, and is overwhelmingly produced this way today. So oil companies are in the hydrogen business.

Second, the hydrogen distribution model requires hydrogen stations, and is thus commercially identical to gasoline distribution. You can’t make your hydrogen at home. This would be expensive because the equipment required is unavoidably more complicated than a simple 220V socket in the wall.
In fact it is almost certainly prohibitive, since you would need very high grade filtering to purify the water, the electrolysis equipment itself, a hydrogen pressure tank, and a compressor, all made of materials able to hold hydrogen.
A technology can be inferior overall yet be superior to the interests of a particular industry. This is hydrogen. And that industry has a lot of political power.


My comment was in response to Alonzo Perez above.

Jesse Gurr

First link:
Great, something else that requires Platinum. And one little hicup in the process brings the entire thing to a halt.

Second link:
“As pyridines would not be suitable for large-scale water splitting because they are potential environmental pollutants, the team now hopes to identify safer alternative proton-removing molecules that could be immobilized onto the surface of the manganese oxide catalyst to enhance its activity.”

Basically, it isn’t viable and they are now looking for alternatives. Much ado about nothing.

Third link:
This one I kinda like. Looks promising if they can solve the problems of low efficiency, which was too low for being commercially viable, and the 1-hour lifespan of the cobalt oxide catalyst.

A common theme is that these processes are not economically viable and likely won’t be for a long, long time. I won’t be holding my breath.


I understand/share your scepticism , but strongly believe research should continue in seeking an economical and enviornmentally friendly way to produce hydrogen other than electrolysis or natural gas reformation. A breakthrough would be a game changer.

With regards to the first link, the process does not require platinum, making it more economically viable. The last paragraph in the link says: “Furthermore, it turns out that the costly platinum catalyst can be replaced by nickel, a far less expensive metal.”


‘“Using nickel and iron, which are cheap materials, we were able to make the electrocatalysts active enough to split water at room temperature with a single 1.5-volt battery,” said Hongjie Dai, a professor of chemistry at Stanford. “This is the first time anyone has used non-precious metal catalysts to split water at a voltage that low. It’s quite remarkable, because normally you need expensive metals, like platinum or iridium, to achieve that voltage.”’

So solar panels sited where it really is sunny, where you can easily get twice the solar incidence of Germany, could produce hydrogen which could be mediated into, perhaps, DME and transported there to REALLY provide power in their winters AND run their cars.

I don’t know all the answers, and in my view in this rapidly changing field of power production, distribution and transport using so many ways of storing the energy no one else does either, as we simply do NOT know what is going to work out and what isn’t.

My view is that those who are so absolute and fancy that they have the one and only answer don’t understand the question.

Big Solar

“My view is that those who are so absolute and fancy that they have the one and only answer don’t understand the question.”

Certainly this statement is true when the only real “fuel” driving something is money it must be looked at very skeptically.


Conspiracy theories are very handy and neatly avoid considering the merits of the case.

I don’t notice many rednecks hooning in Prius’s, nor has Toyota any interests in the oil business.

Even a conspiracy theory needs some reason for people to conspire.

Stick to Toyota having spent the last 20 years developing FCEVs to get ZEV credits.

That they didn’t exist for most of that time will of course be ignored.

Big Solar

I was referring to no conspiracy theory. I meant we should be skeptical and critical of any tech when money is the main or only driver of it. I am in the same way skeptical of the drive behind your postings here.


Well at least the suicide doors would make more sense.


“You Keep Using That Word, (suicide door) I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means”

(see also Princess Bride and wiki definition)

Jesse Gurr

The back doors are basically suicide doors. The definition is a rear hinged door, that is what they are. car makers don’t like to call them that because of obvious reasons. What do you think they are?


I think it’s great, because it will likely show that Hydrogen Fuel Cells are too expensive when customers can directly compare it with the other versions of the exact same car. Also BMW is not known for subsidising their cars for credits like other manufacturers.


Since nuke is off the table in some locations, how much space are we talking about needing to store the hydrogen to do the winter-no sun duty?

How much pump-water storage to accomplish it.

Hoping for links, as my search-challenged abilities do not seem to be improving. Thanks!

Electric Car Guest Drive

Davemart> Its also interesting that guys on blogs know so very much more than just about every automaker capable of building fuel cell cars on the planet.

Well, the “guys on blogs” are consumers, although apparently more than a few are also engineers.

So the consumers, at least here, are blowing a big raspberry at H2 cars.

Maybe that’s because we’re eyeballing the H2 to electric fuel price comparison and going “whoa!”

And the car performance figures.

And the fuel distribution scheme.

And the environmental benefits of each.

When you add on top of all that Toyota’s own chief engineer saying that h2 cars won’t be commercially competitive until 2030…

You have a public that is very, very skeptical about H2 vehicles.

Pretty much everybody I know who is driving a BEV or a PHEV is thinking about the next longer range BEV or PHEV, not looking forward to going back to using liquid fuels as the primary around town fuel at 8x the cost they are currently paying for electrified transportation.


I see hydrogen cars only in that way: 50-80 miles on battery city mode and 300 miles on hydrogen mode in cases of long trips with 3 min refueling along the highways with solar power hydrogen generation stations.


The California ZEV mandates actually began in 1990, almost 25 years ago.

Dave Mart says;

“Stick to Toyota having spent the last 20 years developing FCEVs to get ZEV credits.

That they didn’t exist for most of that time will of course be ignored.”


Well, the CA Zev mandates go all the way back to 1990, nearly 25 years ago.

Obviously, Toyota was aware of these ZEV mandates from the very beginning since California is a big export market for Toyota.

So, Dave Mart’s assertion that ZEV credits had nothing to do with the development of BEV or FCV is simply not true.

The General Motors EV1 was a direct response to the California ZEV mandates.

Big Solar

A lot of what he says is not true. He is hoping to lead people that don’t know any better. Unfortunately he is fairly smart and probably able to fool a lot people.