After Tesla and Nissan, I’d argue that no other automaker has invested as much money and talent into electrification as BMW. Beyond the i3 and i8, BMW is beginning to offer plug-in versions of flagship models like the 3 Series, X5, and 7 Series. But BMW isn’t putting all of its eggs into one technological basket, with unnamed sources confirming to AutoExpress that a hydrogen fuel cell BMW to market by 2020.
It’s likely that a fuel cell BMW would be marketed under the “i” sub-brand, alongside the i3 and i8 and potential i5 plug-in sedan. With this news though, one has to wonder if the i5 may not end up as a fuel cell vehicle instead. BMW and Toyota have had an intimate technology-sharing agreement for sometime now, spawning numerous rumors about the fruits of this relationship. A hybrid Supra successor was one potential production vehicle, and a hydrogen fuel cell Bimmer has been bandied about as well.
So why 2020 and not now? Well even though Toyota and Hyundai have rushed out their own takes on hydrogen fuel cell technology, BMW doesn’t think the technology is quite right for production just yet. And because it already sells a zero-emissions vehicle in the i3, it doesn’t have to rush an unready product to market just to meet California’s zero-emissions mandate.
While Toyota and Nissan are going all-in with their respective technologies, BMW is hedging its bets. That may turn out to be the most prudent choice in the end.