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

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.

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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