Just when the automotive world decides it's committing to all-electric, BMW announces it wants to put a whole lot of eggs into the hydrogen fuel basket.
In a statement, BMW Group CEO Oliver Zipse revealed the group is launching ‘everyday testing of near-series vehicles with a hydrogen fuel cell drive on European roads'.
Klaus Fröhlich, a board member, also confirmed that ‘alternative drive systems will coexist in the future, as there is no single solution that covers all mobility requirements of customers worldwide'.
Now, I know what you're thinking – you’ve only just got your head around the idea of electric and suddenly you’re being presented with hydrogen. What even is a hydrogen fuel cell?
Well, without getting into too much A-level science, hydrogen cars contain a high-pressure fuel tank in which hydrogen gas is stored, and the energy produced by this fuel cell propels the electric motor of the car. The battery stores energy from regenerative braking, just like in an electric car.
Put simply, the hydrogen fuel creates the electricity rather than getting it from a charger. The most important thing though is ZERO WASTE is produced – just good old-fashioned water.
If BMW wants to roll out some hydrogen cars ASAP, is hydrogen power actually going to become a thing? Well, maybe, but probably not on the scale we’re seeing with battery electric uptake.
Currently, it’s mainly in the works for sports cars, supercars/hypercars and for trucks that need to cover longer distances frequently.
Land Rover and Vauxhall are two other manufacturers planning hydrogen models within the next five years. There are only two hydrogen fuel cell cars available to buy today: the Toyota Mirai; and Hyundai Nexo.
The obvious benefit of hydrogen is that like fuel, it takes only a couple of minutes to fill up a tank. Waiting for electric cars to charge just doesn’t compare. Yet while EV charging infrastructure is increasing rapidly, hydrogen has almost no infrastructure ready to go – there are only 11 hydrogen stations in the UK.
BMW is realistic when it says building the infrastructure is an uphill struggle. One expert from the German brand called it the ‘chicken-and-egg-problem’ because the amount of hydrogen filling stations are so insignificant that there will be no demand from drivers, and as long as there’s no demand there will be no hydrogen cars, so operators won’t want to expand the network.
As you can tell, it’s a conundrum that many manufacturers want to solve, and it seems like a world in which electric and hydrogen motor along together would be best for everyone. So watch this hydrogen-filled space…
While we wait for the hydrogen pot to brew, it's worth signing up to the electric life, and we have a huge range of electric cars ready to take you on your way along the zero emissions, rapid charging road on our online showroom.
By Freda Lewis-Stempel