BMW to launch small test fleet of H2 cars to use truck hydrogen fuel stationsFebruary 9, 2023
The automaker plans to roll out a small number of H2 passenger cars to ride the future of H2 trucks.
BMW is aiming to take a ride on the network of hydrogen fuel stations for trucks in order to help overcome the challenge associated with building an expensive network specifically for passenger cars.
A lack of refueling locations is among the largest challenges in the way of H2 for passenger vehicles.
The automaker is taking steps ahead on this opportunity even as battery electric vehicles continue to be the most popular zero-emission vehicle option. That said, with networks planned for hydrogen fuel stations to serve trucks, the company sees an opportunity to test a small fleet of fuel cell cars.
According to the German carmaker’s CEO Oliver Zipse, fuel cell cars is an option that is climate friendly and that will appeal to as many as 30 percent of its customers.
“The key is to build combined hydrogen gas stations for passenger cars and trucks,” explained the head of BMW’s H2 tech program, Jürgen Guldner. “It’s much easier to set up hydrogen stations for larger truck fleets as logistics operators already show interest in this.”
BMW is looking at the truck hydrogen fuel stations network as an opportunity for passenger vehicles.
The automaker sees considerable potential in the availability of a growing hydrogen fuel stations network to boost the appeal of H2 passenger cars, even as the cost of electric vehicle batteries continues to fall and those vehicles hold onto their lead in the zero-emission passenger vehicle category.
Considerable challenges stand in the way of the widespread popularity of H2 cars. This has already caused several automakers, including luxury car rivals Mercedes-Benz and Audi, to phase out their pursuit of vehicles running on this green energy.
Last year, global spending on these vehicles remained essentially niche, reaching only about $2 billion across all H2-powered vehicles and refueling locations, according to data published by Bloomberg NEF. In the same span of time, just public EV charging raked in more than $24 billion.
Hydrogen fuel stations for trucks aren’t rolling out as fast as would be ideal for H2 vehicles.
Last year, Volvo, which is a part of an H2 venture with Daimler Truck Holding, reduced the cost of H2 trucks, pointing out that if other automakers were to participate in the expansion of the hydrogen fuel stations infrastructure, it would play a vital roll in accelerating the rollout of these vehicles. These two largest truck makers in the world intend to begin the production of fuel cells starting in 2025.
“The more we are who can unite around this network, the faster it will happen,” explained Martin Lundstedt, CEO at Volvo. “It will probably be similar to what we see in the case of diesel. There you have coordination and piggy-backing even if there are specific pumps and such.”
BMW isn’t new to hydrogen vehicles and is betting that they’ll be mainstream in the future.
BMW has been tinkering with hydrogen vehicles for a couple of decades at least. In 2005, it had already built one hundred of its “Hydrogen 7 vehicles”. Over the last ten years, the company has been working with Toyota Motor Corp, which has supplied the fuel cell stacks for the BMW iX5 SUV.
In August 2022, the luxury automaker began the production of fuel cell systems for a fleet of under 100 H2-powered iX5s as a part of a two-year testing period taking place in the US, Europe, and Asia. According to Zipse, those vehicles are the top option for drivers who need vehicles that will handle a longer range and that won’t find it feasible to use an inconsistent battery recharging infrastructure that will also require substantial charging times at each stop.
Once the truck hydrogen fuel stations are in place, it will be able to run its test fleet on that existing opportunity.