Manufacturing is taking place in the pilot plant at BMW’s Munich Research and Innovation Centre (FIZ).

The first Sports Activity Vehicle (SAV) featuring hydrogen fuel cell technology has already completed an intensive programme of testing during the development phase and will now be used as a technology demonstrator for locally carbon-free mobility in selected regions from spring 2023.

Frank Weber, Member of the Board of Management of BMW AG responsible for Development, said hydrogen is a versatile energy source that has a key role to play as we progress towards climate neutrality.

He said, “We are certain that hydrogen is set to gain significantly in importance for individual mobility and therefore consider a mixture of battery and fuel cell electric drive systems to be a sensible approach in the long term.

“Fuel cells don’t require any critical raw materials such as cobalt, lithium or nickel either, so by investing in this type of drive system we are also strengthening the geopolitical resilience of the BMW Group. Our BMW iX5 Hydrogen test fleet will allow us to gain valuable insights, enabling us to present customers with an attractive product range once the hydrogen economy becomes a widespread reality.”

Around 900 people are working in the body shop, assembly, model engineering, concept vehicle construction and additive manufacturing, juggling up to six vehicle projects simultaneously, and  tasked with ensuring that the product and manufacturing process are ready for series production.

In the case of the BMW iX5 Hydrogen, specialists in hydrogen technology, vehicle development and initial assembly of new models have been working closely together to integrate the cutting-edge drive and energy storage technology.

Milan Nedeljković, Member of the Board of Management of BMW AG responsible for Production, said the BMW iX5 Hydrogen and the BMW-developed fuel cell systems demonstrates its flexibility and know-how in the field of small-scale manufacture.

BMW Group Plant Spartanburg in the USA supplies the base vehicles for the hydrogen model, which has been developed on the platform of the BMW X5.

They are fitted with a new floor assembly in the pilot plant’s body shop that makes it possible to accommodate the two hydrogen tanks in the centre tunnel and under the rear seat unit.

The model-specific 12V and 400V electrical systems, high-performance battery, electric motor and fuel cell are all integrated during the assembly stage, alongside standard production parts.

Positioned in the rear axle area together with the high-performance battery, the electric motor is a product of BMW’s fifth-generation eDrive technology also employed in battery electric and plug-in hybrid models from BMW.

The fuel cell systems located under the bonnet of the BMW iX5 Hydrogen have been manufactured at BMW’s in-house competence centre for hydrogen in Garching, north of Munich, since August this year.

Numerous components are produced exclusively for the hydrogen-powered SAV, including some made at the Additive Manufacturing Campus – the BMW Group’s competence centre for 3D printing – which also forms part of the pilot plant.

The BMW iX5 Hydrogen passes through all the customary stages of production, starting at the body shop then proceeding to the paint shop and assembly before ending with a final inspection of each individual vehicle. Following this, every vehicle undergoes a comprehensive operational check at the BMW Group’s test centre in Aschheim.

The model combines all the benefits of a locally emission-free drive system with everyday usability and long-distance capabilities, making its hydrogen fuel cell technology an attractive complementary alternative to BEVs. This is especially true for customers for whom short refuelling stops and long ranges are a must, as well as for regions still lacking an adequate charging infrastructure.