BMW’s i5 Model Rumored to Be a Fuel-Cell Vehicle, thanks to Toyota Technology

BMW i3 Concept 1 photo
Photo: BMW
For quite some time now, we’ve known that BMW and Toyota are working together. The initial rumors claimed that the Germans are after the Japanese’s electric-vehicle tech while the Japanese want German chassis and engine tuning for a new sports car.
Both of those rumors could turn out to be true in the following months but Autocar claims that there’s more to this project than meets the eye. According to them, BMW will be using Toyota’s fuel-cell technology for the upcoming i5.

What are the facts?

We know for sure that BMW has trademarked all names from i1 to i9 and wants to use them all in the future. We also know that plug-in hybrids will become the norm in no time, the Germans being spotted testing all sorts of hybrids on public roads. Even the 2 Series Active Tourer will get such a model.

Furthermore, Toyota is well ahead of BMW when it comes to fuel-cell technology. On the electric front, the differences are smaller thanks to the Bavarians’ huge investment in the i sub-brand. Therefore, if they were to trade technologies and if the blue and white roundel company would allow the Japanese to use their tech for a new sports car, they would ask for a little more than just new tech for EVs.

We also know that they are working on the i5. That's going to be a car aimed directly at Tesla's Model S as it will be sporting a sedan design and it should fit right between the i3 and i8. No more details are known for now but we're expecting something in between the 3 Series and 5 Series as far as size goes.

The competition

BMW not only wants to go into fuel-cell territory but it has to do it in order to keep up with the rest of the platoon. Mercedes-Benz and Audi are hard at work in this field as well and they seem to be making progress as well.

Nothing has been officially confirmed by Audi but a recent press release from the Ingolstadt-based giant said that electrolysis is going to be used on their car in the near future. Some say that the four-ringed company is going to unveil a fuel-cell powered vehicle at the imminent LA Auto Show but there’s still a good chance it won’t happen.

At the same time, Mercedes-Benz has been working on a hydrogen-powered B-Class for quite some time and they went even a step further, confirming that the result of their work will be put in production and sold by 2017. That’s just a couple of years away.

The advantages

BMW’s current line-up of cars includes petrol, diesel, electric and hybrid (both with or without plug-in choices) vehicles. However, they will need to further diversify their eco-friendly approach. They only have one EV and one true plug-in hybrid at the moment and that’s not enough.

Sure, in the near future, we’ll be seeing more plug-in versions on ‘traditional’ models but adding fuel-cell ones to the line-up will help out in more ways than you might imagine at first, starting with the stock market value and going to the way the brand is seen worldwide.

Furthermore, fuel-cell vehicles get rid of all the problems EVs have while, at the same time, remaining CO2 free. Thanks to their technology, tanks can be refueled in a matter of minutes and you won’t have to worry about range anymore. On top of that, the infrastructure changes wouldn’t be so big as they are for creating charging stations for electric cars so the advantages tip the scale in favor of fuel-cell cars by a large margin.

The only problem that remains to be solved is to make the technology cheap enough to be affordable. However, as we make progress in the field, chances are we’ll get to drive around powered by hydrogen in few years’ time and BMW has to be amongst the forerunners.
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