The idea of a hydrogen-fueled BMW might seem like a novelty to some, but diehard fans of the brand will probably remember the bonkers H2R concept equipped with a V12 engine that set nine world records in the first half of the previous decade. Several years later, a limited-run Hydrogen 7 was launched based on the company’s flagship model in the 760Li guise with the mighty V12.

In 2013, the Bavarians inked a deal with Toyota to jointly work on hydrogen fuel cell technology, and the two started testing a small batch of 5 Series GT hydrogen vehicles in 2015. The same year, BMW unveiled an i8 hydrogen fuel cell research vehicle and admitted those patent images depicting a peculiar concept belonged to another hydrogen research vehicle.

Gallery: BMW i Hydrogen NEXT concept at the 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show

In 2018, BMW revealed plans to continue development of a new road-going hydrogen car, and now the German premium marque is reiterating its plans for a fuel cell vehicle you’ll (maybe) one day be able to buy by showing the i Hydrogen NEXT. Based on the latest-generation X5, the electric SUV feeding on hydrogen looks almost the same as the conventionally powered model, but there are some obvious blue accents on the body and wheels. The lack of a visible exhaust at the back where there are now blanked-off blue panels denotes the concept doesn’t have an internal combustion engine.

BMW is not offering any details about the technical specifications, but we do know the i Hydrogen NEXT will morph into an electric fuel cell road-going model in 2022 with refueling times of under four minutes and a generous range between them. However, just like it was the case with the aforementioned Hydrogen 7, production will be extremely limited. If everything goes according to plan, a series production hydrogen fuel cell vehicle will be launched in 2025 at the earliest, provided there’s going to be enough demand for it and the necessary infrastructure.

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The BMW i Hydrogen NEXT at the IAA Cars 2019

+++ With the unveiling of the BMW i Hydrogen NEXT at the IAA Cars 2019 show, the BMW Group is demonstrating its ability to complement its electrified vehicle portfolio with the deployment of hydrogen-powered fuel cell technology. +++

Munich. As one of the pioneering figures in the field of electric mobility, the BMW Group is equipping itself for the myriad requirements of future mobility, as illustrated by the BMW i Hydrogen NEXT fuel cell development vehicle awaiting visitors at the IAA Cars 2019 show. The BMW Group is working on the assumption that, in future, various alternative types of drive system will exist alongside one another, as there is no single solution that covers the complete spectrum of customers’ mobility needs worldwide. Hydrogen vehicles represent an important alternative and addition to battery-electric drive systems. This rich diversity of electrified drive technologies – of which plug-in hybrids are another example – underlines the BMW Group’s commitment to achieving zero-emission mobility as part of a well thought-out strategy.

In 2022, the BMW Group is planning to present the next generation of hydrogen fuel cell electric drive systems in a small-series vehicle based on the current BMW X5. The BMW i Hydrogen NEXT provides an initial glimpse of what this model has in store. The BMW Group would start offering fuel cell vehicles for customers in 2025 at the earliest, but the timing very much depends on market requirements and overall conditions.

Design of the BMW i Hydrogen NEXT

The BMW i Hydrogen NEXT demonstrates that this technology can be integrated effectively into a dynamic vehicle like the BMW X5. Slight modifications to the vehicle’s design make it deliberately recognisable as a BMW i model. BMW i espouses innovation and acts as an incubator for all new technologies at the BMW Group.

At the front end, the modifications are most clearly visible in the distinctive BMW i Blue patterning on the bonnet. This patterning reappears in three-dimensional form in the air intakes. The pattern’s shape and colour form a dynamic flow across the front end and flanks of the Mineral White body. The detailing on the light-alloy wheels provides further confirmation of the model’s BMW i genes.

The development vehicle’s innovative nature shines through at the rear, too, thanks to the BMW i Blue diffuser elements. Their blanked off design without exhaust tailpipes clearly highlights that the car’s drive system produces zero local emissions.

Major potential and with significant customer benefit

Hydrogen-powered fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) are able to offer unrestricted zero-emission mobility with similar usage characteristics to conventional vehicles: Refuelling times of under four minutes, long range, no compromises in terms of comfort, suitability for towing and very little dependence on climatic conditions, which means customers enjoy a long operating range in summer and winter alike. To make all of this possible, a hydrogen infrastructure fit for the job in hand is needed. In most countries, such supply infrastructures are still in the early stages of development.

Development partnership with Toyota

The BMW Group has already given a demonstration of the technology’s suitability for everyday use. The BMW Group and Toyota Motor Corporation joined forces in 2013 to co-develop a drive system using hydrogen fuel cell technology. Since the summer of 2015, the BMW Group’s research wing has been testing a small fleet of prototype BMW 5 Series GT hydrogen fuel cell vehicles powered by a jointly developed drive system with a Toyota fuel cell stack.

In 2016, the two companies signed a product development partnership agreement. Since then they have been working together on future generations of fuel cell drive systems and on scalable, modular components for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. The alliance with Toyota Motor Corporation shows how the BMW Group has intensified its efforts to develop alternative drive technologies for fully emission-free driving. The two partners have great faith in fuel cell technology and will continue to work together to develop it further as the infrastructure and mass market grow around the world.

In January 2017, the BMW Group and Toyota teamed up with eleven leading energy, transport and industrial companies to launch a global initiative known as the Hydrogen Council. Its aim is to forge a united vision and push ahead with the long-term ambition of a hydrogen-fuelled energy revolution. As of June 2019, the Hydrogen Council has grown to 60 member companies.