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BMW to send out small fleet of hydrogen cars to road-test new tech

Initial global fleet of 100 cars will give an idea of how the system works


BMW iX5. BMW's 100 iX5 Hydrogen is said to take 'three to four minutes' to fill

BMW iX5. BMW's 100 iX5 Hydrogen is said to take 'three to four minutes' to fill

BMW iX5. BMW's 100 iX5 Hydrogen is said to take 'three to four minutes' to fill

BMW is sending up to 100 iX5 Hydrogen vehicles all over the world in a get-to-know-you mission for testing and sampling of the technology.

The vehicles will take to the road internationally so people – various target groups especially – can see how they work in their particular situations. It is not clear when or if Ireland will be on the tour route.

This will be the first time that people not involved in developing the cars will get to make up their own minds about the BMW iX5 Hydrogen initiative.

One thing that might surprise them is that filling the tanks only “takes three to four minutes” and there is a range of 504kms.

Hydrogen is regarded as a “versatile” energy source with a key role to play in the energy transition process from fossil-fuel power.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) says hydrogen has considerable potential as a future energy source as its ease of storage and transport makes it applicable for a wide variety of functions.

Most industrialised countries are adopting hydrogen strategies and are laying out plans and specific projects. But much depends on being able to produce sufficient quantities from ‘green’ power – and, of course, expanding the filling infrastructure.

It is estimated that there are only 20 filling stations in the UK and 40 in the US, so there is much work to be done.

Progress will respond to, and lead, demand as the volume of vehicles increases.

Price will be an important element too – but as production ramps up it will cost less to produce, and therefore, buy or lease a vehicle.

Hydrogen Ireland is, as its name suggests, an organisation that aims to promote the role of the fuel and fuel cells so they can become core components of a future low-carbon economy.

Its role includes engaging governments north and south on developing policies.

Getting up to 100 hydrogen vehicles out there, as BMW is doing, is certainly going to heighten awareness and show people that it can work.

As you may be aware, there is a chemical reaction in the fuel cell when hydrogen from the tanks and oxygen from the air are mixed. Keeping a steady supply of both to the fuel cell’s membrane is critical.

As well as technical equivalents of elements already on combustion engines (air coolers, air filters, control units and sensors) BMW also developed special hydrogen components for its new fuel cell system – such as a high-speed compressor with turbine and high-voltage coolant pump.

BMW gets the individual fuel cells from Toyota.

There are two main steps in making a fuel cell system.

First, the cells are assembled into a stack, then the other components to produce a complete fuel cell system are fitted.
The new Hydrogen model uses fifth-generation BMW eDrive technology (electric motor, transmission and power electronics are grouped in a compact housing) at the rear axle.

With lithium-ion battery technology developed specially for the new vehicle, the powertrain gets 401hp on to the road.

When the car is coasting or braking the motor serves as a generator, feeding energy back into a power battery.

The hydrogen that supplies the fuel cell is stored in two 700-bar tanks that are made of carbon-fibre reinforced plastic. These hold almost six kilograms of the fuel.

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