In a market with just two serious players and limited take up — Toyota with its Mirai and Hyundai and its Nexo — it might seem strange that both Toyota and BMW are continuing hydrogen development.
But with concerns over limited availability of raw materials impacting the growth of battery electric vehicles, developing a secondary zero emissions strategy is perhaps no bad thing.
In the U.K., Toyota has secured government funding to develop a prototype hydrogen fuel cell-powered version of its world-famous Hilux pickup at the company’s U.K. vehicle plant in Burnaston, Derbyshire.
Funding for the project is being delivered through the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC), an organization supporting the development of cleaner technologies and new mobility concepts to accelerate transition to zero emission vehicles.
Toyota is taking its Mirai fuel cell and developing it for application in its Hilux pickup truck.
Matt Harrison, Toyota Motor Europe president and CEO, said: “The U.K. is one of the key markets for pickup trucks and an important market for Toyota. This funding represents a tremendous opportunity to develop a zero emission solution in a critical market segment. We would like to thank the U.K. government for the funding that will enable the consortium to investigate the development of a fuel cell powertrain for the Toyota Hilux, supporting our carbon neutrality ambition.”
Meanwhile in Germany, the BMW Group is commencing production of its BMW iX5 Hydrogen model at its Munich Research and Innovation Centre (FIZ) in Germany.
BMW says the iX5 has already completed an intensive program of testing during its development phase and will now be used as a technology demonstrator for locally carbon-free mobility from spring 2023.
Frank Weber, member of the board of management of BMW AG responsible for development, commented: “Hydrogen is a versatile energy source that has a key role to play as we progress towards climate neutrality.
“We are certain that hydrogen is set to gain significantly in importance for individual mobility and therefore consider a mixture of battery and fuel cell electric drive systems to be a sensible approach in the long term.
“Fuel cells don’t require any critical raw materials such as cobalt, lithium or nickel either, so by investing in this type of drive system we are also strengthening the geopolitical resilience of the BMW Group. Our BMW iX5 Hydrogen test fleet will allow us to gain new and valuable insights, enabling us to present customers with an attractive product range once the hydrogen economy becomes a widespread reality.”
BMW is no stranger to hydrogen, having developed a bi-fuel version of its 7 Series sedan back in 2005. But as both Toyota and Hyundai have discovered, take up was lackluster because of lack of infrastructure, as well as the cost of vehicles.
Nevertheless, there are several advantages to hydrogen vehicles, not least the speed of filling up with hydrogen — equivalent if not faster than a gasoline car and the range capability of the vehicles, which exceeds current BEV models.
While fleet managers might be planning for the electrification of their fleets in the immediate to mid-term, it looks highly possible a mixed approach to decarbonized fleets will be more appropriate in the longer term.
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