Forget electric, BMW boss says hydrogen will be ‘hippest thing’ to drive


Zipse’s hydrogen dreams could even extend to the group’s crown jewel, Rolls Royce, which BMW has owned since 1998. The “magic carpet ride” driving style that has become Rolls-Royce’s signature selling point is flexible enough to be powered by alternatives to electricity, says Rolls-Royce Motor Cars chief executive Torsten Muller-Otvos.


“To house, let’s say, fuel cell batteries: why not? I would not rule that out,” Muller-Otvos said during a roundtable conversation on October 17 in Goodwood, England, on the eve of the debut of the company’s first electric vehicle, Spectre.

“There is a belief in the group that this is maybe the long-term future.”

Such a vehicle would contain a hydrogen fuel-cell drivetrain combined with BMW’s electric “eDrive” system. It works by converting hydrogen into electricity to reach an electrical output of up to 125 kilowatts/170 horsepower and total system output of nearly 375hp, with water vapour as the only emission, according to the brand.

Hydrogen’s big advantage over electric power, which requires an extensive and so-far non-existent charging network, is that it can supply fuel cells stored in carbon-fibre-reinforced plastic tanks.

“There will [soon] be markets where you must drive emission-free, but you do not have access to public charging infrastructure,” Zipse says. “You could argue, well you also don’t have access to hydrogen infrastructure, but this is very simple to do: it’s a tank which you put in there like an old [gas] tank, and you recharge it every six months or 12 months.”

Fuel cells at BMW would also help reduce its dependency on raw materials such as lithium and cobalt, because the hydrogen-based system uses recyclable components made of aluminum, steel, and platinum.

BMW’s hydrogen plans could even extend to the group’s crown jewel, Rolls Royce.Credit:AP

Zipse’s continued commitment to prioritising hydrogen has become an increasingly outlier position in the automotive world. In the past five years, electric-only vehicles have become the dominant alternative fuel—if not yet on the road, where fewer than 3 per cent of new cars have plugs, at least at car shows and new-car launches.


Rivals Mercedes-Benz and Audi scrapped their own plans to develop fuel-cell vehicles and instead have poured tens of billions of dollars into developing pure-electric vehicle. Porsche went public to finance its own electric aspirations.

BMW will make half of all new-car sales electric by 2030 across the group, which includes MINI and Rolls-Royce.


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