In anticipation of BMW’s highly anticipated iX5 Hydrogen SUV starting low-volume production later this year, the automaker has officially begun manufacturing fuel cell stacks utilizing Toyota tech. The iX5 Hydrogen SUV was first teased in 2019 at the Frankfurt Motor Show, showcasing similar features to the BMW X5 crossover SUV with the internal-combustion engine swapped out for a fuel cell stack.
BMW and Toyota have been collaborating on fuel cells since 2013, with Toyota supplying the individual fuel cells which harness a chemical reaction between oxygen and hydrogen to generate electricity. This technology is assembled into a stack at a facility in Munich, and reportedly includes a “BMW-designed aluminum enclosure manufactured with a sand-casting process in which molten aluminum is poured into a mould.”
These fuel cell stacks, which offer a total output of 374 hp with a battery buffer and a continuous output of 170 hp on their own, are then combined with BMW’s fifth-generation electric-powertrain hardware from the iX crossover and i4 sedan.
“Our many years of research and development work have enabled us to get the very most out of hydrogen technology,” said Frank Weber, member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, Development. “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.”
Notably, the iX5 will be BMW’s most significant hydrogen vehicle since its early 7-Series experiments and the BMW 5-Series GT Hydrogen of 2015. Although the iX5 production order due this year is small, this will serve as an opportunity for BMW to test the waters of fuel cell technology and, hopefully, continue to push this tech forward in future vehicles. Currently, BMW, Hyundai and Toyota remain relative outliers in this realm, as other major automakers have pivoted fuel cell technology to larger, commercial trucks rather than consumer vehicles.