Hydrogen-powered BMW iX5 touches down briefly in South Africa

Published Feb 23, 2024


By Mpho Mahlangu

As part of a pilot fleet currently visiting various countries around the world, the most recent pit stop of the BMW iX5 Hydrogen Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle (FCEV) was Johannesburg, where we were able to get some (albeit brief) driving time behind the wheel of this fascinating new energy vehicle.

The left-hand drive pilot fleet with European registration plates was brought into the country, thanks to a partnership between BMW, Anglo American Platinum and Sasol, which was first announced in October 2023 at the South African Green Hydrogen Summit.

At the Hydrogen Council’s regional meeting and launch of the pilot fleet held last week, CEO of BMW Group South Africa, Peter van Binsbergen said that “collaboration across industries would be key to unlocking the huge potential of green hydrogen as a critical technology in the decarbonisation challenge”.

Van Binsbergen further said that BMW sees hydrogen as the ‘missing piece’ of the energy transition puzzle and that the transport sector may have potential to become another pillar in the BMW Group’s drivetrain portfolio for local C02-free mobility, with battery-electric mobility sitting alongside as an alternative.

Noteworthy, the BMW Group benefits from a partnership with the Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) by means of sourcing the individual fuel cells required for manufacturing the BMW iX5 Hydrogen from TMC.

Fuel cell systems are manufactured in two main steps. First, the individual fuel cells are assembled into a fuel cell stack. The following step involves fitting all other components to produce a complete fuel cell system. The process of stacking the fuel cells is fully automated.

FCEVs require 100kg less raw materials than Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) and FCEV batteries require 90% less critical raw materials than BEV batteries. These, of course, in the long run will be beneficial in the mission of decarbonisation.

The drivetrain of the BMW iX5 Hydrogen consists of a 125kW fuel cell system at the front, two hydrogen tanks with a 6kg total capacity in the middle, a 295kW BMW iX derived electric motor and a 170kW battery. What this translates to is a total power output of 295kW and a claimed range of 500km. Noteworthy, the BMW iX5 can take between 3-4 minutes to ‘refuel’ with hydrogen in ideal circumstances, as a hot climate may affect how long it takes.

When it comes to the driving experience, the BMW iX5 certainly feels every bit the same as any other electric vehicle. The addition of the BMW Iconic Sounds is welcomed, as it adds character to the vehicle. Some evident visual differences that the BMW iX5 benefits from include blue accents around the kidney grilles and on the lower bumper, aerodynamically efficient alloy wheels and blue accents on the lower bumper at the rear.

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