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BMW has a fuel-cell powertrain in the works, and it makes decent power

It'll slap into the BMW i Hydrogen Next.

BMW fuel cell powertrain
Coming to a production car later this decade.

BMW reaffirmed on Monday that it won't just focus on battery-electric cars for its future of zero emissions, but also has plans to pursue hydrogen-powered fuel cells.

The German automaker also spilled some new details on the powertrain that will feature in the BMW i Hydrogen Next prototype. This vehicle won't be available for sale to every customer who wants it, but is more of a stepping stone into the future. 

Fuel cells are a lot like the batteries in an electric car. But instead of a lithium-ion battery to power electric motors, there's a fuel cell stack that converts hydrogen fuel into electricity. In fact, BMW's powertrain features the same electric motors as the ones found in the upcoming iX3 -- an electric car no longer coming to the US.

In BMW's case, there's also a smaller battery onboard that provides an extra shot of energy when the driver wants to overtake or requests more power. As for hydrogen storage, there are two tanks that hold up to 13 pounds of the fuel, and refueling takes about three or four minutes.

In total, there's 374 horsepower available between the entire powertrain. That's certainly no small power figure, and with instant torque, it should make for a fun drive. The automaker plans to make it available in a small-scale pilot scheme in 2022 with the i Hydrogen Next, which will be a lot like an X5 with the powertrain detailed here.

Following the pilot vehicle, BMW said it could bring a production model to market in 2025 at the earliest. All the while, we'll see electric BMWs first. Although the iX3 won't come to the US, we'll still get the iNext electric SUV, which BMW calls its upcoming flagship SUV model. It'll surely be a showcase of everything the German marque can do. After that, we'll see the i4 electric sedan hit the road.

But just beyond that, BMW's got its eye on hydrogen; the automaker believes the future will hold a place for EVs and fuel-cell-powered cars.

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First published March 30.