A BMW i Hydrogen Next automobile that was photographed in Munich on March 12, 2021.

Andreas Gebert | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The BMW Group has started testing vehicles with hydrogen fuel cell drives. The German automobile giant is testing the technology “under everyday conditions on European roads”.

In an announcement on Wednesday, the company stated that prototypes of the BMW i Hydrogen Next will be tested on a range of metrics such as reliability, safety and efficiency.

It described hydrogen fuel cell technology as “long-term potential to complement internal combustion engines, plug-in hybrid systems and battery-electric vehicles”.

According to BMW, the technology could “become an attractive alternative to battery-electric drives – especially for customers who do not have their own access to the electric charging infrastructure or who frequently drive long distances.” The tests should lead to the production of a small series model in 2022.

Read more about clean energy from CNBC Pro

Toyota supplies the individual cells of the vehicles, while BMW develops the fuel cell stack and the complete drive system. The hydrogen tank of the BMW i Hydrogen Next can be filled in three to four minutes and offers the driver “a range of several hundred kilometers in any weather”.

Described by the International Energy Agency as a “versatile energy carrier”, hydrogen has a wide range of possible uses and can be used in sectors such as industry and transport.

BMW is one of several automotive companies researching the potential of hydrogen and the idea of ​​using it in a vehicle is not new.

As early as November 2006, the company announced that production of the BMW Hydrogen 7 had started and described the vehicle as “the world’s first hydrogen-powered luxury sedan”. The Hydrogen 7, he added, used an internal combustion engine and could run on gasoline (gasoline) or liquid hydrogen.

Jaguar Land Rover recently announced Tuesday that it was working on a prototype hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle, with testing of the concept scheduled to begin later this year.

The vehicle is based on the company’s new version of the company’s Land Rover Defender and is part of JLR’s broader effort to meet its goal of zero tailpipe emissions by 2036. The tests will focus on areas such as fuel economy and off-road capability.

Other manufacturers that have entered the hydrogen fuel cell market include Toyota and Honda, while smaller companies like Riversimple are also working on hydrogen-powered cars.

This week, Volvo Cars also announced that it is partnering with SSAB, a Sweden-based steel maker, to “collaborate on the development of fossil-free, high-quality steel for use in the automotive industry”.

According to Volvo Cars, the collaboration will focus, among other things, on an SSAB initiative called Hybrit, which was founded together with the energy company Vattenfall and the iron ore producing LKAB.

According to Volvo Cars, the goal of the Hybrit project is “to replace coking coal, which is traditionally used in iron ore-based steelmaking, with fossil-free electricity and hydrogen.”