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BMW i Hydrogen Next fuel cell vehicle begins testing on public roads

The Bavarian automaker plans to offer the vehicle to the public starting in late 2022.

Aside from the blue graphics and writing, there's not much to distinguish this from a normal X5.

Compared to regular ol' battery electric vehicles, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are pretty rare. There are really only three major automakers that offer production fuel cell vehicles to the public right now -- Honda, Hyundai and Toyota -- but that could be changing soon, according to an announcement Wednesday from BMW.

BMW has been working on its i Hydrogen Next project for years (it debuted in 2019), but now the company has started to test it on European roads with an eye on releasing it for public consumption in late 2022 -- albeit in small numbers.

In case you forgot, the i Hydrogen Next is based on the current-generation BMW X5; only its dinosaur juice-powered Bavarian guts have been replaced with squeaky clean Toyota-sourced hydrogen fuel cells. BMW claims the electrified drivetrain is good for a respectable 374 horsepower thanks to its own eDrive technology, the latest generation of which lives in the forthcoming iX EV.

BMW claims that this new public testing phase is more about ensuring that the existing production X5 architecture and the new hydrogen bits all play nicely together, which is essential given that it's not likely the German automaker could justify making an entirely new model on its own unique fuel cell platform.

Of course, the elephant in the room with hydrogen is the strength of the filling station network and while, in the US, that's best described as scattershot at the moment, things are a little less spartan in Europe. There are plans for even more hydrogen expansion there too, so it could be a viable alternative to battery EVs for people without access to home charging stations.

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