BMW says that its experimental iX5 fuel cell drivetrain delivers “sustainable driving pleasure”. If we know using such terminology marketing speak is nonsense so does BMW because they are way smarter than us here at DCBHQ. But they are intent on making hydrogen cars mainstream, a convenient alternative to fully capable electric cars. They use the argument that hydrogen is the cleanest, most abundant element in the universe. The ideal property for fuel cell cars. But if hydrogen is so abundant why is it not already in mass use by the consumer? There are many reasons. Hydrogen fuel storage is inefficient and is wheel-to-wheel inefficient compared to battery-powered cars. Extracting hydrogen requires as much energy as it does to make gasoline. These are a few reasons why the hydrogen fuel infrastructure is limited to a handful of filling stations.
Yet BMW is persisting with the hydrogen holy grail. The actual fuel cell technology is very interesting, it has been shoe-horned into the X5 for testing and demo purposes. And that is the problem, hydrogen has been touted as a fuel of the future for decades. Why is this iX5 being presented as a test mule now? Why not 20 years ago? The answer is simple, for the last 20 years BMW was busy orchestrating dieselgate. For sustainable driving pleasure. They believed the combustion engine would last forever. Hydrogen fuel cells and electric cars we’re seen as nothing more than a comedy sideshow.
And that is why this iX5 test mule exists today as a technology demonstration. It is an unexpected development forced upon BMW as a matter of urgency. To be fair BMW has been exploring hydrogen-powered cars for a number of years. The theory or concept isn’t new. But there seems to be a sudden urgency to cheerlead hydrogen vehicles into the mainstream. The iX5 concept is fascinating, but one fact caught our attention.
The carbon fiber reinforced hydrogen fuel tank is pressurized at 700-bar or over 10,000PSI. That is an insane amount of pressure to be sitting on top of. We have to add that the hydrogen fuel tank is unlikely to blow up in the event of a crash. There are safety systems built into the fuel tank to mitigate against a terrible result.
That being said, the average gasoline tank has a pressure of 3-5 bar. A bomb blast of around 20-30PSI (1.3 – 2.0 bar) is enough to kill you. The iX5 is literally a sustainable driving pleasure bomb. You know what? that battery-powered electric car is suddenly looking preferable.