Zipse’s hydrogen dreams could even extend to the group’s crown jewel, Rolls Royce, which BMW has owned since 1998. says Rolls-Royce Motor Cars CEO Torsten Muller-Otvos.
“For example, to house fuel cell batteries: why not? I wouldn’t rule that out,” Muller-Otvos said at a roundtable on October 17 in Goodwood, England, on the eve of the debut of the company’s first electric car, the Spectre.
“There is a belief in the group that this may be the long-term future.”
Such a vehicle would contain a hydrogen fuel cell powertrain in combination with BMW’s electric “eDrive” system. It works by converting hydrogen into electricity to achieve an electrical output of up to 125 kilowatts/170 hp and a total system power of nearly 375 hp, with water vapor being the only emission, the brand said.
The major advantage of hydrogen over electricity, which requires an extensive and hitherto non-existent charging network, is that it can supply fuel cells stored in carbon fiber reinforced plastic tanks.
“There will [soon] are markets where you have to drive emission-free, but have no access to public charging infrastructure,” says Zipse. “You could say, well you don’t have access to hydrogen infrastructure either, but this is very easy to do: it’s a tank that you put in like an old [gas] tank, and you charge it every six months or 12 months.”
Fuel cells at BMW would also help reduce reliance on raw materials such as lithium and cobalt, as the hydrogen-based system uses recyclable components of aluminum, steel and platinum.
Zipse’s continued commitment to prioritizing hydrogen has become an ever-increasing outlier in the automotive world. In the past five years, electric vehicles alone have become the dominant alternative fuel — if not on the road, where less than 3 percent of new cars have plugs, at least at auto shows and new car launches.
Rivals Mercedes-Benz and Audi have scrapped their own plans to develop fuel cell vehicles and have instead spent tens of billions of dollars developing purely electric vehicles. Porsche went public to fund its own electric ambitions.
BMW will make half of all new car sales electric across the group, including MINI and Rolls-Royce, by 2030.
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