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BMW i Hydrogen NEXT SUV: powertrain specs confirmed

BMW’s first hydrogen-electric SUV features a pair of electric motors, which have a combined output 369bhp

BMW has confirmed the i Hydrogen NEXT SUV will have an output of 369bhp when it enters its pilot production phase in 2022. The German brand plans to put a hydrogen-electric vehicle into production in 2025, depending on market conditions and infrastructure support.

The BMW i Hydrogen NEXT shares its body-in-white with the current-generation X5, albeit with a handful of cosmetic alterations to mark it as one of the company’s eco models. There’s a unique blue-tinted radiator grille, a set of lightweight alloy wheels and a revised rear diffuser with blanked-off exhaust outlets and blue trim.

It’s powered by a pair of electric motors, (one for each axle), which have a combined output of 369bhp. They’re the company’s fifth-generation eDrive motors, which are also set to feature on the upcoming iX3 SUV

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However, instead of pulling stored electrical energy from a battery pack (like a conventional electric car), the i Hydrogen NEXT generates its own electricity through a chemical reaction between stored hydrogen and oxygen from the air, using a hydrogen fuel cell. As such, the only emissions generated by the vehicle are water vapour.

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The fuel cell is supplied by two 700 bar storage tanks, which occupy the same space as the gearbox and driveshaft in the combustion-engined X5. Together, the tanks can hold six kilogrammes of hydrogen, which BMW says guarantees a long range, regardless of the weather conditions.” 

As such, customers get the same range, regardless of the ambient temperature – unlike traditional battery electric vehicles, whose usable range generally decreases in colder conditions. Refuelling also only takes around four minutes, which is a huge saving over the hour-and-a-half average charge-times of current conventional electric vehicles.

Other claimed advantages a hydrogen-electric vehicle has over a traditional EV include suitability for towing and no compromises on passenger comfort, due to the lack of a heavy lithium-ion battery pack and the stiffer suspension required to support it.

BMW collaborated with Toyota when designing the i Hydrogen NEXT’s fuel system, with the Japanese company providing the hydrogen fuel cells to power BMW’s electric motors. Toyota already has a hydrogen-electric vehicle in production, called the Mirai, which works in much the same way as BMW’s prototype SUV.

The pair have worked collaboratively on the project since 2013, with a small fleet of hydrogen-powered BMW 5 Series GT prototypes entering development in 2015. The two companies also signed a product development agreement in 2016, with the aim of producing scalable modular components and fuel cell drive systems for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

What do you make of the BMW i Hydrogen NEXT prototype? Let us know in the comments section below…

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