“Many people have already talked about this, and hydrogen will be probably the second leg of the natural energy transition in the overall energy sector,” Guldner told the H2 View Summit.
“Simply because hydrogen has some advantages or some properties that the pure use of electricity doesn’t offer. We see a lot of applications in the hydrogen sector coming up in the next few years.
“Also, in the last few years, we’ve seen a lot of activities in the political field and hydrogen strategies coming out on all kinds of levels. This kind of started with the International Energy Agency in 2019 and this then generated hydrogen strategies both in the EU, and in Germany.”
Hydrogen strategies can enable further commitments, investment and innovations within the hydrogen fuel cell space. BMW for example continues to innovate in this field especially with its iX5 Hydrogen fuel cell vehicle that is set to send ripples throughout the mobility industry.
Guldner said, “Last year at the Munich auto show, we presented our current project, it’s called the BMW iX5 Hydrogen. It’s based on our iX5 model. We put a very, very powerful fuel cell system in there and we added a very powerful battery to it.
“Probably contrary to other approaches, our focus was to have enough power for this kind of vehicle, but not by extending the fuel cell enormously, but to kind of separating the fuel cell and using the fuel cell for the peak demand in that that consists for a long time and then adding a battery that is really tuned for power. Not so much for energy content.
“Then we brought out this vehicle at the end of this year. We will produce a very small fleet of these vehicles, mainly for demonstration purposes. Unfortunately, we will not be able to sell or to lease those vehicles yet, but we want to gain more experience in how those vehicles handle in everyday life, in different climates, different regions of the world.”
Although the vehicles are currently not ready for commercialisation, as Guldner said, the data that can be collected through tests and road testing could prove to be valuable in not only supporting the rollout of the iX5 Hydrogen car, but any future iterations of fuel cell vehicles.
The primary means to develop hydrogen mobility solutions is to diversify the zero-emission vehicle range and cover all customers, as Guldner explained, “Battery electric vehicles work in the vehicles. I mean, I’ve had an electric car in my household since 2013, so I’m a fan of electric mobility. But at the end of the day, it’s about getting all the customers into zero-emission vehicles, and it’s about covering all bases and enabling everybody to convert from traditional combustion engines to zero emission powertrains.
“Here we see a lot of applications from a customer perspective, and at BMW, we are very, very customer oriented where we think that maybe for these customers, battery electric won’t work because it doesn’t fit into their individual mobility schedule in their individual mobility needs.
“We want to provide every customer with the frame that best fulfils the individual mobility needs. And that’s why we’re working on hydrogen propulsion, hydrogen powertrains as well.”
But what are some of the positives of using hydrogen fuel cell vehicles? Guldner believes there are a variety of reasons to make the switch to hydrogen citing quicker refuels and longer distances between refuels as major aspects.
“We have one of the most powerful passenger vehicle fuel cell systems at 125kW, and we installed enough cooling in the car to sustain that over longer periods of time, Guldner told the H2 View event. “That means basically we can drive the car on the German autobahn at suitable autobahn speed continuously, and that was very important for us.
“The vehicle dynamics, the acceleration that we are using from electric vehicles, we want to carry over into the hydrogen vehicles because a hydrogen vehicle is an electric vehicle. We are reusing the electric motor and a lot of infrastructure in the car from our electric vehicles already.
“The only difference is that the energy is stored in terms of hydrogen instead of electricity and a battery. And that brings me to the main advantage for the end customer, which is gassing up very, very quickly. Three to four minutes at a gas station and you’re ready to go 100% full and you’re ready to go.
“Same acceleration as an electric car, same silent ride and emission free, of course, when we get to green hydrogen in the future at the gas stations.”
With innovation in the mobility space a key part of BMW’s DNA, it is expected that its hydrogen fuel cell range will continue to surge in popularity.
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