UTC Power has announced that their 5 kW fuel cell is being used inside a new BMW Series 1 Hybrid electric auto. The unveiling this week was during the 25th anniversary BMW ZT celebration in Munich, Germany.
UTC has been working on this fuel cell since 1999. According to UTC Vice President, Ken Stewart, “From a fully frozen state, the fuel cell is half way to full power in less than 30 seconds. The system uses UTC Power’s proprietary ambient pressure technology, which does not require a compressor to deliver air to the cell stack. This results in a quieter, more efficient system.”
So far, BMW has not come forward with many details about the Series 1 fuel cell hybrid vehicle (a similar vehicle is pictured). Back in December 2009, BMW had said they are scaling back operations, pulling engineers off the BMW Hydrogen 7 to work on their line of hybrid vehicles because of the depressed overall auto sales.
But, at that time, I had also speculated that BMW wasn’t suspending or discontinuing its hydrogen program but changing direction to fuel cell vehicles. Now, why would I make this assertion? After all BMW has been developing dual fuel, gasoline and liquid hydrogen autos with internal combustion engines (ICE) since 1979 when the BMW 520h was unveiled.
But cryogenic hydrogen hasn’t caught with the other automakers or the H2 fueling station designers like compressed hydrogen gas has. This is not to say that BMW will abandon liquid hydrogen and ICE’s altogether. But, the BMW Series 1 fuel cell vehicle shows that the automaker is willing to go in a new direction.
In 2001, BMW rolled out a prototype Mini Cooper with an H2ICE system. In 2009, BMW announced that 500 MINI E battery electric vehicles would be distributed for field trials mostly in California. What is missing now, is the Mini Cooper fuel cell hybrid electric vehicle. How about it BMW are you up to this task? The BMW Series 1 fuel cell hybrid electric auto is a good, fresh start for the company and a step in the right direction. Now, let’s see what their second step may be.