TOKYO — Luxury automakers fortified their stance on hydrogen fuel cell vehicles at the Tokyo Motor Show, with Lexus unveiling a dramatic fuel cell concept and BMW AG disclosing that it will launch a vehicle in 2020 developed in conjunction with Toyota Motor Corp.
The auto industry continues to wrestle with the viability of fuel cell vehicles. Because they emit only water, the vehicles are immensely attractive in an era of increasingly strict carbon dioxide emissions regulations. Yet the hurdles are significant: limited hydrogen-
fueling infrastructure in Europe, Japan and the U.S.; small-scale production volumes that limit economies of scale; and steep costs.
But those factors haven’t dampened Toyota’s enthusiasm for hydrogen, a key reason BMW chose the Japanese automaker for its collaboration, which started in 2013. Toyota’s fuel cell technology is “pretty much the best on the market,” Merten Jung, BMW’s head of fuel cell development, told Automotive News.
BMW is testing eight 5-series Gran Turismo development vehicles that use Toyota fuel cells and BMW’s electric drivetrain. The production version of BMW’s fuel cell vehicle will be rear-wheel drive and likely a midsize model, similar to its 5-series sedan or X5 crossover, Jung said.
The vehicle’s range will depend on the kind of tank BMW uses, but will be between 280 and 435 miles.
The benefits of such collaboration go both ways. BMW and Toyota are also considering the joint development of a sports car, and expect to finalize plans by year end.
“I think Toyota is more advanced in terms of fuel cell technology than BMW, but BMW is much better at motorsports and emotional kinds of vehicles,” Toyota President Akio Toyoda told Automotive News. “I think in both of those areas we’ll be able to reach the same level in the future by inspiring each other and stimulating each other.”