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BMW testing hydrogen power in forthcoming iX5 FCEV

John Law

BMW has showcased a prototype iX5 large SUV running around in the arctic as a proof-of-concept for the efficiency of fuel-cell vehicles

BMW has released further images of its first production fuel-cell EV (FCEV) – the iX5 Hydrogen – that was first seen in mid-2021 and has recently been running around at BMW’s Arjeplog arctic test centre.

Like the midsize iX3, the iX5 Hydrogen looks nearly identical to the internal-combustion X5, with only a few blue garnishes on the grille and alloy wheels to differentiate it from an X5 M40i

And while the iX3 is set to become a mainstay in the BMW range, the iX5 will reach production later this year but only in a small initial batch that will not be sold directly to the public.

BMW iX5 Hydrogen in Arjeplog Feb 22
The FCEV BMW iX5 will become a reality this year

Instead, like the Toyota Mirai and Hyundai NEXO FCEVs, BMW will offer lease plans to a small number of interested parties. 

The reason for no public sale alongside regular X5s is that currently, there isn’t enough infrastructure in place to support FCEVs, according to member of the BMW board, Frank Weber.

Mr Weber said, “for [BMW] to be able to offer our customers a fuel-cell drive system as an attractive sustainable mobility solution, a sufficiently extensive hydrogen infrastructure also needs to be in place.”

What kind of range and power does the iX5 offer?

The iX5 Hydrogen has a pair of 700-bar tanks made from carbon-fibre reinforced plastic, though the amount of hydrogen stored in kilograms has not been disclosed. 

BMW iX5 Hydrogen in Arjeplog Feb 22
BMW has not claimed a range for the iX5 Hydrogen just yet

A Hyundai Nexo uses a 152-litre tank which, when the hydrogen is compressed to the same 700-bar pressure, offers a WLTP combined range of 666km. 

Refuelling the iX5 will take around four minutes according to BMW, faster than the 35 minutes it takes the brand’s flagship iX electric SUV to replenish its 105.1kWh (usable) lithium-ion battery pack from 10-80 percent.

There are other benefits of a FCEV including that the transmission of hydrogen gas to water (the only waste product) gives off warm water vapour that can be captured to heat the iX5 Hydrogen’s cabin more efficiently than the heat pumps utilised by modern EVs.

Additionally, the range of FCEVs is not affected by cold weather (though BMW has not yet claimed a WLTP range for the iX5 Hydrogen), unlike battery electric vehicles. 

BMW iX5 Hydrogen in Arjeplog Feb 22
The range of hydrogen FCEVs is not affected by cold weather

Mr Weber confirmed the success of the iX5 Hydrogen’s winter testing, noting “winter testing under extreme conditions clearly shows that the BMW iX5 Hydrogen can also deliver full performance in temperatures of -20°C.”

For the iX5 Hydrogen the maximum power output from the conversion of H₂ gas into H₂0 is 125kW, however there is a small lithium-ion battery that can store electricity (similar to a self-charging Toyota RAV4 Hybrid) which helps boost total outputs to the motors to release 275kW.

Final specifications including WLTP range, performance claims are yet to be determined, though BMW is expecting to get a small number of iX5 Hydrogen examples on the road later this year.

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