While Elon Musk believes electric cars are the future, and Toyota maintains that hydrogen fuel cells are a better idea, BMW has committed to playing both angles. After the successful launch of the BMW i3 and i8, the German automaker has rolled out a hydrogen fuel cell concepts based on an early i8 test mule.
When it launched, the BMW i8 came with a 3-cylinder gas-powered engine pair with two electric motors driving the rear wheels, giving the plug-in hybrid about 23 miles of electric driving range and 357 combined horsepower. However, it still relies on gasoline once the 7.1 kWh battery pack is drained, and while the 76 MPGe rating is better than the hydrogen-powered Toyota Mirai, the i8 still ends up spewing emissions from its tailpipe.
That changes with the eDrive Hydrogen Fuel Cell prototype. BMW has toyed with hydrogen as a replacement for petrol in various ways, and while the hydrogen-powered BMW i8 appears to be the fruits of the BMW-Toyota tech-sharing alliance, it was actually built in 2012, before the alliance was ever cemented. With 300 miles of range per tank and a sinister look, the hydrogen-powered eDrive BMW i8 was actually one of the first test mules built before production.
But where the plug-in hybrid version of the i8 dolls out a combined 357 horsepower and can zip from 0 to 60 MPH in just 4.4 seconds, the hydrogen version of the i8 makes just 268 horsepower and takes 6 seconds to reach 60 MPH. BMW also fitted this experimental drivetrain to a 5 Series GT, and the rumored BMW i5 could offer both a plug-in hybrid and hydrogen drivetrain.
That said, given the above specs, I know which one I’d prefer.