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This image, from September 2021, shows a BMW iX5 Hydrogen in Munich, Germany.
Krisztian Bocsi | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The BMW Group on Monday launched a pilot fleet of hydrogen vehicles, with the German automotive giant’s CEO referring to hydrogen as “the missing piece in the jigsaw when it comes to emission-free mobility.”

The BMW iX5 Hydrogen, which uses fuel cells sourced from Toyota and has a top speed of more than 112 miles per hour, is being put together at a facility in Munich.

The car stores hydrogen in two tanks and can be filled up in three to four minutes. BMW says it has a range of 313 miles in the Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure, or WLTP cycle.

It will enter service in 2023, although the scale of the rollout is small, with a fleet of “under 100 vehicles” set to be “employed internationally for demonstration and trial purposes for various target groups.”

In a statement, BMW Chair Oliver Zipse said hydrogen was “a versatile energy source that has a key role to play in the energy transition process and therefore in climate protection.”

He went on to describe hydrogen as “one of the most efficient ways of storing and transporting renewable energies.”

“We should use this potential to also accelerate the transformation of the mobility sector,” Zipse added.

“Hydrogen is the missing piece in the jigsaw when it comes to emission-free mobility.”

“One technology on its own will not be enough to enable climate-neutral mobility worldwide.”

Described by the International Energy Agency as a “versatile energy carrier,” hydrogen has a variety of applications and can be deployed in sectors such as industry and transport.

BMW is one of several automotive firms continuing to look into the potential of hydrogen. Others include Toyota and Hyundai, while smaller businesses such as Riversimple are also working on hydrogen-powered cars.

Hydrogen may have its backers, but some high-profile figures from the automotive industry are not so sure.

In June 2020, Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted that “fuel cells = fool sells,” adding in July of that year: “hydrogen fool sells make no sense.”

In May 2022, Musk reiterated his skepticism about hydrogen’s role in the planned shift to a more sustainable future, describing it as “the most dumb thing I could possibly imagine for energy storage.”

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