BMW has announced a hydrogen fuel-cell car that has a range of 700km, charges in less than five minutes, and is emission-free other than water. If this sounds like a car that could save the world, that’s because it is. In theory.
The concept of using hydrogen to fuel a car isn’t new; BMW says its been working on the technology for 30 years. In fact, it’s already been beaten to the fuel-cell market by the Toyota Mirai – due out later this year – and 2008’s Honda FCX Clarity.
What’s important about today’s development can be broken down into three parts. First is BMW’s cryo-compressed hydrogen storage vessel (we’ll come to that later). Next, how this efficiently works with BMW’s fuel-cell technology. Finally, the Western world’s push towards renewable energy and how that can help cars.
The cryo-compressed hydrogen storage vessel is similar to the one found in the Toyota Mirai and it’s best to think of it as the hydrogen equivalent of a petrol tank. The vessel weighs 160kg (including fuel), has a maximum storage capacity of 7.1kg, and is designed to sit between the front and rear axles – meaning it’s unnoticeable from the cockpit. BMW reports that it can keep hydrogen cooled to -220˚C and ready for immediate use for six weeks.