BMW CEO Norbert Reithofer reiterated his company’s commitment to fuel cell technology, revealing in a speech this week that a purpose-built fuel cell vehicle was being considered for production.

BMW has just taken the covers off its first battery-powered electric production car, the 2014 i3, which can drive between 80 and miles on a single charge of its lithium-ion battery. For longer jaunts, a gasoline-sipping range extender is available.

However, BMW envisages vehicles in the future emitting zero emissions--all the time. This is where the hydrogen-powered fuel cell fits in.

“For long distances we are looking into solutions such as fuel cell-powered electric motors,” Reithofer explained. “In the future, options like this will offer short refueling times and enable long distance travel with zero emissions.”

Of course, the downside to the fuel cell is that its fuel, hydrogen, is not readily available and most hydrogen sourced today comes from C02-emitting means. There are clean alternatives, however, and these are gaining in popularity, particularly in Europe. One such form is using wind or solar power to split water into hydrogen and oxygen using the electrolysis process in reverse.

As for the fuel cell technology BMW is planning, Reithofer explains that a purpose-built vehicle architecture like the one used in the i3 was the “right approach” and that help from alliance partner Toyota would also be utilized. Toyota is committed to launching its own fuel cell vehicle in 2015.

You may be wondering why BMW would be interested in fuel cell cars when even battery-powered electric cars are yet to make a significant presence in the new car market. Reithofer explains once again that new technologies and changing business fields opens up new perspectives and growth opportunities, and that BMW is keen to remain in the lead in this area.


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