Just days after confirmation that the first mass-market BMW fuel cell vehicle will arrive after 2020, Klaus Frohlich, Member of the Board of Management and R&D chief at BMW, has shared his thoughts on EVs and FCVs, which may have some hints about the company’s future plans about these two vehicle categories.
Speaking to Engineering News, he revealed that over the next 20 years, BMW will be working only on two technology categories – powertrain technologies and digitalisation technologies.
Mr. Frohlich said that BMW “has to invest a lot of resources” in electrified powertrains although conventional petrol and diesel engines will have their presence for “at least” the next 50 to 60 years. To make electrified vehicles volume-sellers, it will be important to reduce their cost and weight than increase the range, Mr. Frolich stated. The company will continue using Lithium-Ion battery for the years to come, but the company is also working on alternatives for the distant future.
For cars with driving range better than the EVs, BMW will likely embrace fuel cell technology. A BMW i3 can go up to 160 km on full charge, or up to 300 km in case of range extender being opted for. For a range far beyond that, fuel cell technology is probably the future for the company.
“Electric propulsion will be very expensive for quite a while, which is why I am also quite conservative to have too high a range from a weight and cost point of view. A long range means more battery, which means more weight and cost.”
For bigger cars and more range, fuel cell technology would be the optimal solution.
“For bigger cars, such as the BMW X5 or BMW X7, in environments where you need more range, a combination with a fuel cell is a good solution.”
The BMW X5 is expected to remain in its third generation till around the end of the decade, while the BMW X7 will be arriving for the first time in 2017. It’s still a little too early to say as to which will be the first BMW FCV, but Mr. Frohlich’s words suggest that a mid-size and/or full-size crossover/SUV offering could be offered with a fuel cell powertrain but after 2020.