BMW has outlined its plans to begin testing a hydrogen fuel cell-powered model on public roads during its annual 'Innovation Days' event in France.
A 5 Series Gran Turismo powered by hydrogen was demonstrated at the event, but the German carmaker is taking the long road on development with a planned sales debut set for “after 2020”.
At that time, BMW’s ‘i’ range of green models should be well established, with the range currently consisting of the i3 and i8 models in Australia.
BMW says the 5 Series GT prototype has a range of around 500km between hydrogen fills, with the refuelling process taking around five minutes.
The technology could be accelerated in the years ahead, however, as BMW is sharing the development burden with its technical partner, Toyota.
Toyota has already launched its first-ever hydrogen-powered model called the ‘Mirai’ into the Japanese market with the US set to follow. The carmaker hopes the public will adopt the new technology as it did when the hybrid Prius was first released.
Mazda has also signed a technical-sharing partnership with Toyota on hydrogen, which could further fast-track development collectively for the three carmakers, and Toyota has opened its hydrogen patents to promote industry development.
BMW views refuelling infrastructure as a key barrier to the uptake of hydrogen technology, in much the same way that a lack of recharging stations is blamed for the stunted growth of electric vehicle sales.
Hyundai recently established Australia’s first - and at this stage only - hydrogen refuelling facility at its Sydney base, open to anyone driving a hydrogen-powered car.
Cost is also a factor in the technology’s early stages, with the Mirai priced from around AU$73,000 in Japan.
Alongside the 5 Series GT at Innovation Days was a plug-in hybrid version of BMW’s 2 Series Active Tourer, and a 1 Series model equipped with turbo water injection to improve fuel economy in engines with turbochargers.
The 2 Series AT PHEV is expected to make it to market first, with an electric-only range of around 38km and an official fuel figure of 2.0 l/100km.
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