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BMW iX5 Hydrogen Fuel-Cell EV Enters Production in Europe

The vehicles will be used in select markets to demonstrate the tech's efficacy.

BMW iX5 Hydrogen Production
Assembling a hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle requires a whole bunch of work unique to FCEV powertrains.

Hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles convert compressed hydrogen gas into electricity, which then powers a car by the same means as a traditional EV. Hydrogen infrastructure is still in its adolescence, but BMW believes there's a future for this type of propulsion, and to prove it, it's building a small fleet of hydrogen vehicles.

BMW announced that production has begun on a test fleet of iX5 Hydrogen vehicles. It's BMW's first production hydrogen vehicle, and according to the automaker's release, these fuel-cell vehicles will be used to show off the viability of hydrogen "for locally carbon-free mobility" in 2023.

"We are certain that hydrogen is set to gain significantly in importance for individual mobility and therefore consider a mixture of battery and fuel cell electric drive systems to be a sensible approach in the long term," said Frank Weber, a BMW board member, in a statement. "Our BMW iX5 Hydrogen test fleet will allow us to gain new and valuable insights, enabling us to present customers with an attractive product range once the hydrogen economy becomes a widespread reality."

The BMW iX5 Hydrogen starts its life in the automaker's SUV plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina, since it's based on the standard X5 that is also manufactured there. The majority of the hydrogen-specific work takes place at BMW's pilot plant at its R&D center in Munich. The fuel cell, when combined with an electric motor and a battery, gives the iX5 Hydrogen a net output of 374 hp, or just a bit less than the current plug-in hybrid X5.

Earlier this year, BMW shipped us off to Sweden to take the iX5 Hydrogen for a spin. We called it "unremarkably normal" at the time because it's just as comfortable and capable as a standard X5, but with a nearly silent powertrain. For the time being, it's a rear-wheel-drive affair, but we had no problems keeping the 5,600-ish pound SUV under control across frozen lakes and other iffy terrain.