This may come as a surprise, but BMW started research on hydrogen in 1978. It wasn’t until 2000, however, that the E38 750hL arrived. A fleet of 15 cars was presented in Berlin with a V12 engine capable of running on both gasoline and hydrogen. The vehicle was used as a shuttle during Expo 2000 in Hannover. Hydrogen 7 followed in 2006 during the E68’s lifecycle – again with the V12 – and was put into production, albeit in small quantities.
Fast forward to 2022, BMW has started production of the in-house Hydrogen iX5 fuel cell and plans to build a limited series of hydrogen-fueled SUVs. Unfortunately, there is no V12 at this time. Why does the Munich-based automaker insist that this technology has a future? Well, that looks set to be trendy once the battery-powered EV craze has subsided indefinitely. At least that’s what company chairman Oliver Zipse believes will happen.
In an interview with Bloomberg, BMW’s head honcho said: “After electric cars, which have been around for about 10 years and are growing rapidly, the next trend is hydrogen. When it’s more scalable, hydrogen will be the coolest thing to drive.” He went on to say that having only one powertrain – namely a battery-powered EV – available in Europe by 2035 would be dangerous:
“For the customer, for the industry, for the job, for the climate, from every angle you look at, it’s a dangerous road to take.”
BMW is not alone in the hydrogen ship as Toyota also believes there is a future for fuel cell vehicles. In fact, the two automakers are collaborating on the FCV and will start mass production as early as 2025. Earlier this year, BMW head of sales Pieter Nota told Nikkei Asia the Bavarian brand is working on “various projects” with the Japanese brand.
Both companies have been vocal in their opposition to the widespread adoption of EV batteries. Beyond hydrogen technology, BMW and Toyota believe there is still a future for combustion engines, especially in markets where charging infrastructure is still sorely needed.
Of course, hydrogen stations are few and far between, and it’s not the automaker’s responsibility to build them. On the other hand, the EV charging network is growing rapidly, which is why most automakers are pouring billions into cars without ICE. BMW will discontinue gasoline engines in Rolls-Royce models by the end of the decade, with Mini to follow suit in the early 2030s. The core brand has not yet set a cut-off date for the combustion engine.