AMSTERDAM — BMW is planning a small-batch hydrogen fuel cell car to be unveiled in 2022, said Matthias Klietz, head of the company's alternative powertrain group.
Klietz was here for Royal Dutch Shell's energy conference last month to demonstrate a prototype BMW 5-series GT modified with a hydrogen fuel cell powertrain. The company doesn't expect large-scale production of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles to happen until after 2025.
Automakers such as Toyota, Honda, Hyundai and General Motors continue to research fuel cells even as they ramp up other battery-based electrification programs. Stringent emissions regulations could push European carmakers to invest in hydrogen-fueled cars.
BMW produced a hydrogen variant of the 7 series in the mid-2000s and uses hydrogen as an energy source in its factories. Klietz spoke with Shiraz Ahmed, assistant editor, mobility, about where BMW is in its hydrogen fuel cell efforts.
Q: How do you see the implementation of hydrogen occurring?
A: For BMW, we'll use it for the cars, but we also use it in the production process. So forklifts are propelled with hydrogen, especially in the U.S. You can also use it in the production process to make it more sustainable, if you're using it with a liquid to store the hydrogen. You can reduce your energy consumption and become more efficient using the heat from the production process to store it.
What role do carmakers play in rolling out the infrastructure?
We're on the road with the product. Somebody has to produce the hydrogen, somebody has to deliver the hydrogen to the customer; it's quite a long chain. And the product, the car itself, is at the end of that chain. So we need all these other stakeholders to get the system running.
Is that a collaboration, or do you trust energy companies and governments to get the infrastructure ready—
There are organizations where we try to align the process of building up the infrastructure and the product. We move it forward by negotiations. That's how you do it at the moment. There are no hard contracts.
Will hydrogen cars suffer from people being unsure about the technology?
From the customer side, the biggest problem is still the infrastructure. Looking to our product, it's the cost. It's still not good enough to offer [at reasonable] costs to customers.