BMW reaffirms its commitment to developing fuel cell vehicles for passenger cars, with the goal of achieving series production readiness by the end of this decade. According to Group CEO Oliver Zipse, fuel cell technology plays a crucial role in regions with inadequate electric vehicle charging infrastructure and should coexist with battery electric vehicles to meet diverse customer needs and global regulatory requirements.
Zipse's recent visits to China and Japan further emphasized the significance of fuel cell technology in areas where charging infrastructure is limited. He stated, “It's also an advantage if no one else goes into this technology.”
BMW has been actively developing fuel cell cars for several years, sourcing fuel cell components from Toyota. While the cooperation agreement with Toyota is set to expire soon, BMW is expressing a clear interest in extending the partnership and continuing to use Toyota's fuel cell technology. Toyota has been a pioneering force in fuel cell technology, with extensive experience derived from the Mirai and commercial vehicle applications.
BMW has so far introduced a demonstration fleet of the iX5 Hydrogen, but from 2027, the company could offer fuel cell options for sister models X6 and X7 following their model updates. Additionally, the New Class platform, initially focused on electric drives, might also incorporate fuel cell technology. This is notable as BMW had previously described the New Class platform as “BEV-only” in a March 2023 announcement.
While BMW remains dedicated to fuel cell technology for passenger cars, Toyota has shifted its fuel cell development focus toward commercial vehicles, acknowledging that the Mirai has faced challenges in the passenger car market. Toyota's Technical chief Hiroki Nakajima admitted that the Mirai has not achieved significant success due to high costs and a limited hydrogen refueling infrastructure for private customers.
Although Toyota is now emphasizing the use of fuel cells in commercial vehicles, it still intends to explore ways to make the technology more versatile for various vehicle types by reducing the size of components such as fuel cell stacks and tanks.
Zipse believes that the size of fuel cell components aligns well with BMW's focus on large and heavy vehicles, emphasizing that fuel cells are a suitable technology for this segment. He also noted that fuel cell development is approximately ten to fifteen years behind battery technology.
In the third quarter of 2023, the BMW brand and the BMW Group achieved an electric share of 15.1%, marking their strongest quarterly result to date, with 93,931 all-electric vehicles sold. While fuel cell vehicles play a minor role in these figures, BMW remains committed to their development alongside battery electric vehicles.