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BMW to explore fuel cell power for Neue Klasse EV platform

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BMW is investigating production of a hydrogen fuel cell version of cars on its coming Neue Klasse (New Class) full-electric platform, according to Oliver Zipse.

Bmw-ix5-hydrogen%20web%20BMW.jpg

"In our view, hydrogen is the missing piece of the puzzle that can complement electromobility places where battery-electric drivetrains are unable to gain traction," Zipse said on the company's earnings call on Wednesday.

The first cars on the Neue Klasse platform are due in 2025 and will initially include a sedan similar in size to the 3-Series and a "sporty SUV," Zipse said on the call. "We could also imagine a hydrogen drivetrain for this new vehicle generation," he added.

BMW will start limited production at the end of the year of a hydrogen fuel-cell version of the X5 large SUV, called iX5 Hydrogen. "We are already thinking about a possible next generation."

The iX5 Hydrogen prototype was first shown at the IAA mobility show in Munich in 2021.

The car combines a fuel-cell with a battery to give a combined output of 374 hp. Filling up the tanks takes three to four minutes, BMW said. The project was partly funded by the German government.

BMW is hydrogen's biggest advocate among German automakers as it plots a path to zero emissions. Others have been less keen on the drivetrain due to its high cost and the currently limited hydrogen refueling infrastructure. In 2020 Daimler said it would cease development of its GLC F-Cell fuel cell SUV. 

Among non-German automakers, Renault recently showed the Scenic Vision concept, which previews both the automaker's upcoming compact electric SUV, and a future hybrid powertrain that combines hydrogen fuel cells and lithium ion batteries. 

Toyota continues to sell the hydrogen fuel cell Mirai sedan in limited numbers, although it is not a battery hybrid like the Renault and BMW vehicles. And both Renault and Stellantis sell hybrid hydrogen-battery electric commercial vans. 

Fuel-cell proponents say the technology is well-suited for heavier personal vehicles such as SUVs that are often used for long trips and would need a large and expensive battery pack to match the range of smaller full-electric cars.

BMW's openness to include hydrogen fuel-cells in its Neue Klasse vehicles indicates the flexibility of the platform, which the company has said is electric only.

The Neue Klasse platform goes into production in 2025 at a new factory in Debrecen, Hungary. The platform will also be used in the company's Munich factory, which will produce vehicles based on it starting in 2026, Zipse said.

BMW are to give a  "glimpse" of a future Neue Klasse vehicle at the next IAA Mobility event, scheduled for September 2023 in Munich. This will offer "a spectacular digital experience for our customers." 

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11 minutes ago, Young Thrash Driver said:

Very conventional styling. Do hydrogen fuel cells generally produce much heat?

Depends on the type of fuel cell in use (unsurprisingly there are many type, depending on the electrolytes used) but they typically run cooler than a combustion engine - around 65C as opposed to 100C.

Many fuel cells are insulated in order to maintain a consistent temperature across the whole cell, which aids efficiency. 65C is still fairly high, but the plan is for that heat to be recovered and used for cabin heating.

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17 minutes ago, Young Thrash Driver said:

Very conventional styling.

Yeah, it’s the standard X5 packaging wrapped around a fuel cell rather than ICE / Electric.

That is the underlying principle of the “power of choice” same vehicles but with full variety of power sources.

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