As the search for an alternative to fossil fuels continues, BMW is making moves toward a hydrogen-powered vehicle, according to British publication AutoCar.

Speaking with BMW’s sales and marketing boss Ian Robertson, AutoCar released a report recently outlining the German automaker’s intention to develop a fuel-cell car for release in the near future: “We’ve said we’ll continue to invest in hydrogen and that will result in a small number of production test vehicles being made to prove the technology works,” said Robertson. “The real issues lie not around what we can do, though, but whether the infrastructure can be built up to supply hydrogen in the marketplace cost-effectively.”

According to the report, fuel-cell stack packaging and hydrogen storage, both major hurdles for the fuel cell-powered vehicle, have made significant advances in the past few years. Flying under the “i” Series designation, of which the i3 electric and i8 hybrid are both part, BMW looks to be developing an i5 hydrogen-powered car that would use a slightly altered version of the powertrain found in Toyota’s FCV.

However, Robertson also hinted that advanced electricity storage technology, such as lithium air and solid-state batteries, could “see charging time and range worries disappear,” giving the EV a significant boost in the marketplace. “At some point in the future the technologies will switch over. When the crossover comes and the focus becomes electricity, the rate of learning will accelerate even faster,” Robertson said. “Relatively, that time is not far away.”

Note: BMW i3 pictured here.

Click past the jump to read more about BMW’s future hydrogen car.

Why it matters

The race is most definitely on when it comes to the next big thing in vehicular motive power. In one camp, we have hydrogen, which uses an electrochemical conversion to combine oxygen and hydrogen into water, resulting in electricity, which is then used to power an electric motor. In the other camp, we have the electric vehicle, which uses batteries charged from an external source to power an electric motor.

Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Hydrogen power has scalable range and would fit well into the existing infrastructure of pump-and-pay gas stations, but issues surrounding storage of the highly volatile element remain to be solved. Electric vehicles are simple and reliable, with few moving parts, but battery technology in its current form translates into long charge times and limited range, not to mention a lack of infrastructure for adequate charge points.

Which side will gain the most traction? Place your bets now, because the starting gun has already fired.

BMW i3

2015 BMW i3 High Resolution Exterior
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This pocket-sized three-door hatchback is BMW’s entry into the world of electric vehicles. With an exterior design that minimizes drag, suicide rear doors, 19-inch wheels, and LED headlights, the i3 sets itself apart from other EVs with modern looks and luxurious features. The shell is made of carbon fiber and aluminum, keeping curb weight to a dainty 2,434 pounds.

Beyond a nav system, smartphone connectivity, an alarm system, and few other odds and ends, the interior comes with the usual Bimmer option list for buyers looking to spend a bit more, including leather upholstery, a sunroof, satellite radio, and anthracite door mats.

The most interesting feature, however, is under the hood, where a 170 horsepower, 184 pound-feet electric motor sends twist to the rear wheels for a 7.2-second run to 60 and a top speed of 93 mph. A full charge will yield a range up to 123 miles, with a recharge taking 30 minutes at a fast-charge station and 8 hours with a normal outlet. Anyone interested in driving further than 123 miles can opt for a range-extending, two-cylinder motor that uses traditional internal combustion to create a battery-charging 34 horsepower, giving the i3 another 60 to 90 miles.

Source: AutoCar

Jonathan Lopez
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