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Hydrogen Powertrain components developed at BMW's LuTZ Landshut

CO2-free drive technologies are a top priority, and hydrogen vehicles will play an essential role in the growth of e-mobility and become an additional option in the long term. Just like electric vehicles, hydrogen vehicles come with an electric drive train. However, they do not obtain the energy they need from high-voltage batteries but produce it directly onboard the car from hydrogen. In this way, the use of innovative hydrogen technology can help further decarbonisation.

BMW Group's Lightweight Construction and Technology Centre (LuTZ) in Landshut produces essential components for the hydrogen-electric drive train installed in the BMW i Hydrogen NEXT from 2022, supplying them for installation of the fuel cell system in Munich. A "Hydrogen Technology Day" was held at the facility, highlighting innovations for future mobility and allowing BMW Group to demonstrate how the location is making a vital contribution to the company's transformation towards e-mobility.

Hydrogen vehicles generate the electrical energy needed from hydrogen directly in the car and offer many advantages. They are best suited for customers who frequently drive long distances, require a great deal of flexibility or do not have regular access to electric charging infrastructure. Refuelling takes just a few minutes, as it does with conventional fuels. Vehicles that run on hydrogen produced using renewable energy can make an essential contribution to meeting climate goals.

The BMW Group will pilot a small series of the BMW i Hydrogen NEXT from 2022, based on the current BMW X5 and equipped with a hydrogen fuel cell e-drive that only emits water vapour. The BMW Group is building on its experience with fifth-generation e-drives to develop this vehicle.

However, the conditions needed to be able to offer BMW Group customers a hydrogen vehicle are not yet in place. Further commitment is necessary – particularly concerning the hydrogen filling infrastructure and requirements throughout the entire energy system. Green hydrogen must be available in sufficient quantities and produced at competitive prices for individual mobility.

In Germany, the European Union and other major regions of the world, lawmakers have recognised the significance of green hydrogen for the energy system of the future. The European Union has made hydrogen technology a focal point with the "Green Deal". Major Asian markets, such as Japan, Korea and China, have expressed a strong interest in establishing infrastructure for hydrogen vehicles. The conditions for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles will develop differently around the world.

Highly innovative components from Landshut for fuel cell system

Preparations are already underway in Landshut for the fuel cell system used in the BMW i Hydrogen NEXT from 2022. The production location in Lower Bavaria will manufacture highly innovative components for the small series: the so-called stack housing made of light metal, which holds the fuel cells, and the media end plate made of plastic and lightweight metal castings, which creates an air and watertight seal around the stack housing. "Media" refers here to the hydrogen, oxygen and coolant that are channelled into the housing through the media endplate to initiate the chemical reaction in the fuel cells. These complex components are specifically designed to withstand prolonged contact with hydrogen.

"Having the Lightweight Construction and Technology Centre here at the site gives us a real advantage over our competitors. We have innovative capabilities and industrialisation expertise; we can develop strategically crucial innovations ourselves and, at the same time, we can reliably assess external partners and suppliers,"

said Dr Wolfgang Blümlhuber, head of Technology Driving Dynamics.

"In a technological transformation, success doesn't happen by itself. Courage, pioneering spirit and a long-term shift incompetence have been part of the secret of our success in the past – and our highly qualified employees and their willingness to change play a key role,"

according to Willibald Löw, Chairman of the Works Council of BMW Group Plant Landshut.

Fuel cell system in the BMW i Hydrogen NEXT

Within the drive train, the fuel cell system of the BMW i Hydrogen NEXT is continuously fed with hydrogen from CFRP tanks and generates up to 125 kW of electrical power for the electric motor mounted on the rear axle. The underlying mechanism for this is a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen, with water the only reaction product. Two 700-bar tanks, which together hold six kilograms of hydrogen, guarantee extensive range in all weather conditions and can be refilled in just three to four minutes.

The electric motor in the BMW i Hydrogen NEXT is the same highly-integrated fifth-generation e-drive used for the first time in the BMW iX3. The high-voltage battery that sits above the e-drive serves as a performance buffer and provides different dynamics for acceleration. The drive train system delivers a total output of 275 kW (374 hp).

The BMW Group says its has over 40 years of experience with hydrogen technology and more than 20 years in hydrogen fuel cell technology. In 2000, Plant Landshut fitted the BMW Hydrogen 7, with a hydrogen combustion engine and cast components shaped using sand cores. "Plant Landshut represents the power of innovation from Lower Bavaria," underlined Dr Stefan Kasperowski, head of BMW Group Plant Landshut.

As the BMW Group's largest component plant worldwide, the Landshut location has six different technologies at its command. It concentrates cross-technology pre-development expertise at the Lightweight Construction and Technology Centre.

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