BMW, one of the world’s leading automotive brands, recently unveiled its prototype hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, the BMW iX5 Hydrogen, in Korea.
The BMW Group is investing heavily in the development of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, claiming that it is a complementary technology to electric vehicles, rather than a competing one. But what exactly is a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle and how does it compare to electric vehicles?
Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles generate electricity by converting hydrogen and oxygen into water through a chemical reaction. The electricity generated then powers an electric motor, which drives the wheels. The only emission produced by a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle is water, making it an environmentally friendly alternative to gasoline-powered cars.
The BMW iX5 Hydrogen uses a fuel cell stack developed in collaboration with Toyota, and it has a range of around 500 km (311 miles) on a single tank of hydrogen. The vehicle can be fully charged in only 3-4 minutes, which is much faster than charging an electric vehicle battery. Moreover, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles have an advantage in colder temperatures, where electric vehicles lose driving range due to battery performance.
However, the main challenge facing hydrogen fuel cell vehicles is the lack of infrastructure, including refueling stations, to support their usage. Although BMW argues that building a combined infrastructure for both electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles is more economical than expanding electric vehicle infrastructure alone, the cost of building hydrogen refueling stations remains high.
Another challenge is the production of hydrogen itself. Currently, most hydrogen is produced from natural gas, which emits greenhouse gases during production. The cost of producing hydrogen from renewable sources is still high, but efforts are being made to develop more sustainable methods of producing hydrogen.
Moreover, the BMW iX5 Hydrogen is expected to have a high price tag when it is released, putting it out of reach for many consumers. This is also a challenge for electric vehicles, although the cost of EVs has been decreasing in recent years.
In terms of energy efficiency, BMW claims that hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are more efficient than electric vehicles when it comes to energy conversion. This is because hydrogen car batteries use only about 10 percent of the raw materials required for electric vehicle batteries. However, when considering the entire lifecycle of the vehicle, including raw material mining and recycling, both technologies are on an equal footing.
In conclusion, while hydrogen fuel cell vehicles have many advantages over electric vehicles, including faster charging times, longer range, and better performance in cold temperatures, their future depends on the development of infrastructure and the availability of affordable, sustainable hydrogen. The BMW iX5 Hydrogen is an exciting development in the world of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, but it remains to be seen whether it can compete with the growing popularity of electric vehicles.