BMW is showing off its first hydrogen-powered iX5 crossovers this year but still has some way to go to make the technology a viable alternative to battery-electric cars.
The automaker plans to ship around 80 of the crossovers to Europe, Asia, the U.S. and the Middle East for use in test drives and car shows, part of a drive to offer customers options outside of battery cars in the electric shift.
Hydrogen vehicles are struggling to take off because of high costs and a fledgling fueling infrastructure.
“Hydrogen is a versatile energy source that has a key role to play in the energy transition process and therefore in climate protection,” BMW CEO Oliver Zipse said in a statement.
“One technology on its own will not be enough to enable climate-neutral mobility.”
That BMW’s test fleet remains small is a reflection of the difficulties hydrogen cars — a technology companies have worked on for decades — have been having breaking into the mainstream.
Only about 60,000 of them are on the roads, with Hyundai’s Nexo the bestseller last year.
That compares with a fleet of roughly 19 million battery-electric vehicles, according to BloombergNEF estimates.
Fuel cell systems still struggle to compete with lithium ion batteries on costs even after the EV industry saw the first increase in pack prices last year since BNEF began tracking them in 2010.
Mercedes-Benz has phased out the hydrogen-powered variant of its GLC crossover it built in small batches.
While Honda stopped production of its Clarity hydrogen model in 2021, it has announced plans to start production of a fuel cell vehicle in the U.S. in 2024.