Automotive

BMW explores hydrogen fuel cell power in new 5 Series GT prototype

BMW explores hydrogen fuel cel...
BMW's 5 Series GT prototype turns hydrogen gas into electric power
BMW's 5 Series GT prototype turns hydrogen gas into electric power
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BMW showed off a slinky hydrogen concept based on the i8
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BMW showed off a slinky hydrogen concept based on the i8
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Although details are scarce, BMW's stylists have clearly spent some time making it look slick
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Although details are scarce, BMW's stylists have clearly spent some time making it look slick
BMW's hydrogen fuel cell prototype in action
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BMW's hydrogen fuel cell prototype in action
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The car is reportedly built on an i8 platform
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The car is reportedly built on an i8 platform
Hydrogen power has never looked so good
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Hydrogen power has never looked so good
BMW's concept takes the shape of a 5 Series Gran Turismo
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BMW's concept takes the shape of a 5 Series Gran Turismo
Power comes from an electric motor, fuelled by hydrogen
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Power comes from an electric motor, fuelled by hydrogen
The concept is fuelled by a tank that runs between the front and rear axles
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The concept is fuelled by a tank that runs between the front and rear axles
Hydrogen fuel aside, the BMW should drive like any other electric powered car
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Hydrogen fuel aside, the BMW should drive like any other electric powered car
BMW's 5 Series GT prototype turns hydrogen gas into electric power
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BMW's 5 Series GT prototype turns hydrogen gas into electric power
The hydrogen powertrain creates electricity and emits only water vapour
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The hydrogen powertrain creates electricity and emits only water vapour
Filling up a hydrogen car isn't much more complex than filling up a petrol or diesel car
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Filling up a hydrogen car isn't much more complex than filling up a petrol or diesel car
BMW stores the hydrogen gas in a pratented tank at 350 bar
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BMW stores the hydrogen gas in a pratented tank at 350 bar
Filling the tank takes under 5 minutes
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Filling the tank takes under 5 minutes
BMW's hydrogen technology has been developed in conjunction with Toyota
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BMW's hydrogen technology has been developed in conjunction with Toyota
The hydrogen gas is converted into electricity, which powers a 245 hp motor
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The hydrogen gas is converted into electricity, which powers a 245 hp motor
The electric powerplant makes 245 hp, and the car will run for 300 miles without needing to be filled up
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The electric powerplant makes 245 hp, and the car will run for 300 miles without needing to be filled up
There is a small battery fitted to the 5 Series concept, which can store a small amount of energy
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There is a small battery fitted to the 5 Series concept, which can store a small amount of energy
BMW's breakdown of the fuel cell components
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BMW's breakdown of the fuel cell components
One of BMW's fuel stack assemblys
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One of BMW's fuel stack assemblys
The fuel cells, as well as their housing and ancillary components are a result of BMW's partnership with Toyota
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The fuel cells, as well as their housing and ancillary components are a result of BMW's partnership with Toyota
BMW's hydrogen storage system is patented
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BMW's hydrogen storage system is patented
The hydrogen is stored at 350 bar
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The hydrogen is stored at 350 bar
BMW and Toyota are trying to working to make hydrogen cars production viable
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BMW and Toyota are trying to working to make hydrogen cars production viable
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BMW is
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BMW is
Storing hydrogen is a complex business
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Storing hydrogen is a complex business
The car's hydrogen/electric hardware doesn't take up too much space
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The car's hydrogen/electric hardware doesn't take up too much space

Hydrogen has been touted as one of the most promising alternatives to our current dependence on fossil fuels to power cars because it fits our current driving habits. Whereas plug-in electric vehicles have limited range and take a long time to recharge, hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles can be refueled in a matter of minutes from a pump that looks similar to a fuel pump. BMW has continued its development of hydrogen technology with a new 5 Series GT based prototype, which can drive for 500 km (311 miles) before it needs to be topped up.

Powering the 5 Series GT is a 180 kW (245 hp) electric motor, with a high voltage battery designed for interim energy storage. The car's hydrogen is stored in a tank built into a tunnel between the front and rear axles, and is a patented design for storing gaseous hydrogen at low temperature and 350 bar pressure.

This tank can be topped up in under five minutes, and the process will be familiar to anyone who has filled a gasoline car up before, although hydrogen fillers need to be insulated and locked into place before use.

The car's fuel cell, which draws on technology developed as a part of BMW and Toyota's fuel cell partnership, converts hydrogen gas into electrical energy and water vapour for emission-free motoring without the range anxiety that comes with battery-supplied electric power.

The hydrogen gas is converted into electricity, which powers a 245 hp motor
The hydrogen gas is converted into electricity, which powers a 245 hp motor

Toyota and BMW are aiming for their strategic partnership to have an initial group of production components ready by 2020. Both brands are also wary of committing to hydrogen if the refueling infrastructure isn't sufficient, so much of their work is based around creating technological standards that can be used to make fuel cell cars easier to use and increasing their reach to consumers.

Already the technology is becoming more mainstream, with the production Toyota Mirai set to launch later this year. Toyota has also been pushing for a wider network of hydrogen filling stations to be built around the US, and the company has invested in creating a chain of hydrogen filling stations across New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

BMW showed off a slinky hydrogen concept based on the i8
BMW showed off a slinky hydrogen concept based on the i8

There was more to the BMW's hydrogen reveal than a practical 5 Series GT. Details are scarce, but BMW also showed off a matte-black hydrogen prototype with i8-aping looks. We know very little about the car beyond reports that it's based on a development i8 platform, and is powered by a similar hydrogen powertrain to that shown off in the 5 Series GT.

Have a flick through the gallery to check out it and the 5 Series GT prototype.

Source: BMW

6 comments
Siv
Why are car companies messing about with electricity and batteries which are crap at retaining their charge over time and need expensive and bad for the environment materials in them, when you can just tweak an existing petrol engine to run on hydrogen directly???? This also means you just fill up with Hydrogen like you do petrol and the infrastructure of petrol stations stays the same??? I appreciate that we need to figure out how to make hydrogen from something other than fossil fuelled electricity but pretty much every day there is something in Gizmag about using bacteria or solar power to do it so let's get cracking and ditch these useless batteries!
DaveWesely
This is interesting that BMW is working toward fuel cells in vehicles, but I don’t think that cars are the best application for it. Hydrogen storage is difficult and bulky which delegates it to stationary applications. BTW, burning hydrogen in an ICE engine is very inefficient (33%). If we were really serious about “range anxiety” in electric vehicles, we would standardize large batteries and make them swappable so we could change them at gas stations and dealerships. Leave your drained batteries behind to be swapped out several hours later by someone else. It wouldn’t take much circuitry to calculate battery lifetime and usage (and therefore value). Plus if you wrecked your car, the batteries could be sold or used in a new vehicle. And if you ran out of juice, replacement batteries could be brought to your car like gas. The infrastructure needed to create battery charging/swapping stations would be far less than setting up hydrogen refilling stations, not to mention the fact that we already have electric cars on the road and an electrical grid to hook up charging stations.
Douglas Bennett Rogers
The fuel cell/electric motor are potentially much more efficient than the heat engine. Not sure why they aren't using metal hydride instead of pressurized hydrogen.
Daishi
Most current hydrogen is made from fossil fuels/natural gas. It seems silly to use natural gas to make hydrogen to power a hydrogen car instead of just powering the car on natural gas itself. The other method to make hydrogen is through electrolysis of water (separating oxygen from hydrogen) but that is only about half as efficient as just using electricity to power the vehicle. So aside from the challenges of hydrogen vehicles themselves the argument against them is the methods being used to create hydrogen would probably be more suitable to power automobiles directly. With that said though it might still be more suitable than gasoline going forward.
Don Duncan
In the early seventies my uncle made a living converting the carb to use gas or NG. He converted the 7up fleet in the bay area. NG was much cheaper then. Why it went way up I don't know. Of course, a large tank had to be added for the NG. But the flick of a switch allowed duel fuel use and NG was cheaper and extended engine life. If the problem with hydrogen fuel is infrastructure, a slow change would come about painlessly if the ICE could be converted and H2 was cheap.
Stephen N Russell
Id drive one , just need GPS map to refuelling sites Awesome NO emissions