BMW has announced it will begin producing hydrogen fuel cell systems in Munich to supply a small series of iX5 Hydrogen cars that will be tested around the world later this year. In a separate announcement, Bosch said it will soon produce hydrogen fuel stacks in South Carolina.
The goal of hydrogen cars, BMW said in a news release, is to achieve “a more diversified transition to zero-emission mobility.”
“As a versatile energy source, hydrogen has a key role to play on the road to climate neutrality,” said Oliver Zipse, Chairman of the Board of Management of BMW AG, in Munich on Wednesday. “And it will also gain substantially in importance as far as personal mobility is concerned. We think #hydrogen-powered vehicles are ideally placed technologically to fit alongside battery-electric vehicles and complete the electric mobility picture. By commencing small-scale production of fuel cells today, we are demonstrating the technical maturity of this type of drive system and underscoring its potential for the future.”
Frank Weber, a member of BMW AG Development’s Board of Management, added that the OEM “will get the very most out of hydrogen technology” due to its “many years of research and development work.”
“We have managed to more than double the fuel cell’s continuous output in the second-generation fuel cell in the #BMW iX5 Hydrogen, while weight and size have both decreased drastically,” he said.
The BMW iX5 Hydrogen generates a high continuous output of 125 kilowatts per 170 horsepower. The iX5’s powertrain can deliver 275 kW/374 hp due to its fuel cell system, BMW’s fifth-generation eDrive technology electric motor, and a high-performance battery. The drive system is comprised of two hydrogen tanks, a fuel cell, and an electric motor.
“The BMW iX5 Hydrogen already successfully demonstrated its excellent everyday usability, even at very low temperatures, during the final round of winter testing in Sweden at the start of this year,” BMW says.
In addition to the technological equivalents of features found on combustion engines, such as charge air coolers, air filters, control units, and sensors, BMW also developed special hydrogen components for its new fuel cell system including a high-speed compressor with a turbine and high voltage coolant pump.
BMW sources the individual fuel cells required for manufacturing the BMW iX5 Hydrogen from Toyota through a yearslong partnership including on fuel cell drive systems since 2013. Fuel cell systems are manufactured in two main steps. First, the individual fuel cells are assembled into a fuel cell stack then all of the other components are placed to produce a complete fuel cell system, according to BMW.
“Stacking the fuel cells is a fully automated process. Once the individual components have been inspected for any damage, the stack is compressed by machine with a force of five tonnes and placed in a housing. The stack housing is manufactured in the light metal foundry at BMW Group Plant Landshut using a sand casting technique. For this, molten aluminum is poured into a mold made from compacted sand mixed with resin in a process specially designed for this small-series vehicle. The pressure plate, which delivers hydrogen and oxygen to the fuel cell stack, is made from cast plastic parts and light-alloy castings, also from the Landshut plant. The pressure plate forms a gas-tight and water-tight seal around the stack housing.”
The final assembly of the fuel cell stacks includes a voltage test along with extensive testing of the chemical reaction within the cells then all of the components are fitted together in the assembly area to produce the complete system.
Bosch is also investing in hydrogen fuel cell technologies because “mobile fuel cell technology presents a viable option for climate-neutral transportation of goods in Class 8 vehicles where battery electric alone still presents challenges due to battery size and weight. Fuel cells make all-electric operation of large vehicles for long trips a reality.”
The company announced Wednesday that it will begin producing fuel cell stacks in 2026 at its Anderson, South Carolina facility as part of a more than $200 million investment that’s expected to create at least 350 new jobs.
Bosch says the fuel cell stacks produced in Anderson will drive hydrogen-powered trucks that are slated to hit US roads in the next few years.
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