BMW and Toyota partner on hydrogen fuel cell vehicles

BMW and Toyota’s long-term partnership will soon result in the pair’s first jointly-produced hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. The plan is to launch them as soon as 2025. BMW already has a hydrogen-powered X5 concept in the pipeline with plans to start small-scale production this year. This isn’t the first time the pair have teamed up. You might’ve heard of the BMW Z4 or the Toyota Supra. The German-Japanese partnership developed both. BMW and Toyota are exploring another renewable energy source, as more manufacturers pivot towards electric vehicles.

The two will begin producing and selling hydrogen fuel cell vehicles developed jointly as early as 2025, BMW sales chief Pieter Nota told the publication.

The automakers have worked together before, jointly developing the iX5 Hydrogen based on BMW’s X5 SUV, as well as the BMW Z4 and Toyota Supra sports cars in 2019.

Toyota has deep experience with fuel cell technology, with its eight-year-old Mirai mid-size sedan heading into its second generation. Instead of an engine or a battery, these cars use hydrogen and oxygen to create electricity.

Fuel cells offer advantages over battery-electric vehicles. They can be refuelled in three to four minutes and travel longer distances. However, the US network of public hydrogen stations is concentrated in California, and even there it’s not yet ready for mass adoption.

Despite BMW’s re-entry into the EV market with the i4 four-door coupe and iX SUV, the company has hinted that it would be pursuing hydrogen, too. In a recent earnings call, CEO Oliver Zipse said that the company’s next-generation platform, Neue Klasse, will likely be designed to accommodate the gaseous fuel in addition to pure battery power.

The company has pursued a similar all-of-the-above strategy before with a platform known as CLAR, which supported internal combustion, plug-in hybrids and full battery-electric propulsion. CLAR allowed BMW to move quickly on plug-in hybrids, but its more recent pure EV efforts have been delayed relative to its competitors. Neue Klasse may fall prey to the same problems, or it may solve them. The market will get to decide starting in 2025, when new 3-series sedans and X3 SUVs based on the platform go on sale.

The main advantage of fuel cell vehicles over EVs is that they are quicker and easier to refuel. But actually building the infrastructure required to refuel those types of vehicles is costly and even more limited than EV recharging stations. Not to mention the requirements of storing and handling hydrogen. It might seem like a step backwards for BMW to focus on such a niche and limited technology. But we’re sure some people thought the same about EVs before they were making headlines every other day. With the price of Lithium increasing by 382% year-on-year in March, hydrogen fuel cells could be a promising alternative.