BMW Continues to Use Hydrogen

Gary S. Vasilash

The future of fuels for transportation may ultimately be hydrogen, the most widespread element in the universe. (Yes, there is a lot out there, in here, and in between, but a problem is getting it to be freed-up from other elements, as in separating the H2 from the O.)

BMW hydrogen 7

Companies like BMW have been working on hydrogen powered vehicles for a number of years. Here, for example, is the Hydrogen 7, which goes back to 2006 (though this variant is from 2008). A hydrogen-powered vehicle. A hydrogen-powered vehicle with a V12 under its hood.

But while developments undoubtedly continue, pure electric vehicles seem to garner the most attention. So hydrogen, it seems, may be all about the future, right?


In fact, BMW is using fuel cells for transportation right now.

But this is BMW Manufacturing in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and the transportation in question is of parts in the plant.

Hydrogen parts carriers on 12/12/12.  File:  121112GR34


The company is now using some 230 fuel-cell powered material handling devices in the 4-million-square-foot factory.

One of the benefits of using the hydrogen system is that it allows them to save. . .electricity. BMW estimates that they will avoid the use of 4.1-million kW/hours per year with its recently expanded hydrogen system (they had been using about 100 transporters since 2010).

In addition to which, they are now in phase two of the “Landfill Gas-to-Hydrogen Pilot Project.” Phase one was about economic and technical feasibility. Now the project team, headed by the South Carolina Research Authority, are moving on to the implementation and testing of the equipment that will be used to assure the purity of the hydrogen derived from methane that is sourced from a landfill.

BMW Manufacturing, incidentally, is the global site for the production of the X3, X5 and X6 vehicles.