Terrorizing the testing ground in France at BMW’s ‘Group Innovation Days’ was an experimental BMW i8 built as a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. Reports suggest that this hydrogen powered i8 prototype was built in 2012 – long before BMW signed a deal with Toyota – and is one of the first i8 test mules ever developed.
The super-coupe relies on carbon fiber materials to keep its weight as light as possible and features an aerodynamic package developed at BMW’s wind tunnel in Munich. Under the stealth fighter matte black paint and lightweight construction is a tunnel tank capable of storing hydrogen at 50-bar-pressure and providing an estimated range of 300 miles. The hydrogen feeds a fuel cell stack that develops power for the batteries and electric motor. Total system power is 242 bhp, which is good for a zero-to-sixty time around 6 seconds and a top speed of 124 mph according to Top Gear.
The i8 was parked alongside a hydrogen-powered 5 Series GT prototype with the same powertrain, which the automaker says could deliver 300 miles of range and dump all of its electric motor’s 242 horsepower to the wheels instantly.
BMW officially partnered with Toyota in 2013 to co-develop a mass-market FCEV, but has been working on hydrogen technology for the past 15 years. Under the joint venture, it appears that Toyota is focusing on the fuel cell, while BMW is working hard on developing the hydrogen tank, electric motor, and batteries. The goal of working together on a single standard for hydrogen FCEVs, the possibly other factors–reliability, safety, hydrogen refueling stations, consumer adoption–become more mainstream.
Check out this fun video to see how fast the production 2015 BMW i8 can be:
If you are unfamiliar with hydrogen fuel technology, it is 100% emission free. Basically, hydrogen is combined with oxygen, creating water and electricity. The efficiency of a hydrogen fuel cell is generally much higher than an internal combustion engine (ICE). The hurdles to overcome involve storing the hydrogen, the lack of refueling stations, and the cost of fuel cells are expensive compared to conventional EV. California has a partnered with automakers, energy providers, government agencies, and fuel cell companies to work together promoting the commercialization of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.