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BMW starts European road tests of hydrogen fuel cell cars


On March 12, 2021, a BMW I Hydrogen Next vehicle was photographed in Munich, Germany.

The BMW Group has begun testing vehicles with hydrogen fuel cell drivetrains, with the German automaker putting the technology to the test “in everyday conditions on European roads.”

In a statement issued on Wednesday, the company stated that prototypes of the BMW I Hydrogen NEXT would be tested on a variety of metrics, including reliability, safety, and efficiency.

It stated that hydrogen fuel cell technology has “long-term potential to supplement internal combustion engines, plug-in hybrid systems, and battery-electric vehicles.”

BMW went on to say that the technology could “become an appealing alternative to battery-electric drive trains – particularly for customers who do not have their own access to electric charging infrastructure or frequently drive long distances.” The tests are expected to result in the production of a small-series model in 2022.

Toyota provides the individual cells for the vehicles, while BMW develops the fuel cell stack and entire drive system. According to the company, the hydrogen tank on the BMW I Hydrogen NEXT can be filled in three to four minutes, giving drivers “a range of several hundred kilometres in all weather conditions.”

Hydrogen, described by the International Energy Agency as a “versatile energy carrier,” has a wide range of applications and can be used in industries such as manufacturing and transportation.

BMW is one of several automakers exploring the potential of hydrogen, and the idea of using it in a vehicle is not new to them.

It announced the start of production of the BMW Hydrogen 7 in November 2006, describing the vehicle as “the world’s first hydrogen-powered luxury saloon car.” The Hydrogen 7 also had an internal combustion engine and could run on either gasoline or liquid hydrogen.

More recently, Jaguar Land Rover announced on Tuesday that it was working on a prototype of a hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle, with testing of the concept set to begin later this year.

The vehicle will be based on the company’s new Land Rover Defender, and it is part of JLR’s larger effort to meet a target of zero tailpipe emissions by 2036. The testing will concentrate on aspects such as fuel consumption and off-road capability.

Toyota and Honda are two other manufacturers that have dabbled in the hydrogen fuel cell market, and smaller companies such as Riversimple are also working on hydrogen-powered vehicles.

Volvo Cars also announced this week that it would collaborate with SSAB, a Swedish steel manufacturer, to “jointly explore the development of fossil-free, high-quality steel for use in the automotive industry.”

According to Volvo Cars, the collaboration will focus on an SSAB initiative called HYBRIT, which was established alongside energy company Vattenfall and iron ore producer LKAB.

According to Volvo Cars, the goal of the HYBRIT project is to “replace coking coal, which has traditionally been required for iron ore-based steelmaking, with fossil-free electricity and hydrogen.”

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