How BMW is accelerating smart mobility in the Middle East
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How BMW is accelerating smart mobility in the Middle East

How BMW is accelerating smart mobility in the Middle East

BMW Middle East’s managing director tells Gulf Business that the German brand is exploring alternative powertrains and fuels to accelerate transition to emission-free mobility

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BMW is accelerating smart mobility in the Middle East

BMW introduced its BMW iX5 Hydrogen pilot fleet to the MENA market in March. Tell us more about the company’s hot weather testing and how the fleet is coping with the region’s high temperatures.

The BMW iX5 Hydrogen excelled in the MENA region after rigorous hot weather testing in the UAE, showcasing its adaptability in extreme conditions. Enduring temperatures reaching 45°C, sand, dust, and varying terrains, the vehicle proved its resilience and suitability for everyday use.

The tests focused on validating the fuel cell system, central vehicle control, hydrogen tanks, power-buffer battery, and electrical systems’ functionality, all performing flawlessly even in challenging conditions. This pioneering hydrogen-powered vehicle represents BMW’s commitment to emission-free technologies and its ambition to lead in sustainability within the premium car market.

When will be the BMW iX5 Hydrogen available for customers in the market?

 BMW is diligently preparing for the series production of vehicles with hydrogen drive systems, including the BMW iX5 Hydrogen.

This model is currently in the pilot phase, used primarily to demonstrate and improve fuel cell technology. Full-scale production and availability of this vehicle for customers are contingent upon several factors. This includes the availability of green hydrogen at competitive prices and the existence of an adequate international hydrogen filling infrastructure.

We anticipate that production vehicles will be offered to customers towards the second half of this decade, depending on market requirements and overall conditions. We will be able to offer a complete package that meets our customers’ high expectations with the third generation of our fuel cell drive train.

The lack of refuelling infrastructure is seen as a major drawback to the adoption of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. What initiatives are you putting in place to increase hydrogen refuelling infrastructure in the local market?

BMW is accelerating smart mobility in the Middle EastExpanding the hydrogen refuelling infrastructure is a key focus for BMW. We are actively supporting the expansion of hydrogen refuelling infrastructure. This has two purposes – first, to overcome one of the major challenges to the adoption of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and the second is to establish a Green Hydrogen value chain.

We collaborate closely with government and industry regulators to spearhead the expansion of emission-free mobility infrastructures. BMW Middle East recently forged a partnership with the Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure (MOEI) for the installation of electrical charging stations across the UAE.

Additionally, the UAE took a monumental step in its emission-free mobility journey recently, with ADNOC opening one of the first high-speed green hydrogen refuelling stations in the region, located in Masdar City. The station, H2GO, will provide critical insights into the long-term viability of hydrogen mobility in the UAE. The launch marks an essential milestone as we showcase our emission-free mobility efforts.

The UAE, among other MENA governments, has unveiled several smart mobility strategies over the years. How do you plan to contribute to the country’s smart mobility strategy and achieve net zero carbon emissions in the region by 2050?

BMW is committed to advancing the UAE’s smart mobility strategy and achieving net-zero carbon emissions in the region by 2050. We are driving emission-free mobility, as exemplified by our role as the VIP E-Mobility provider at COP28 UAE.

Exploring alternative powertrains and fuels, such as electric and hybrid vehicles and hydrogen fuel cells, forms a key part of our plan to boost smart mobility. We’re investing in infrastructure improvements for these vehicles, including more charging stations.

Finally, we believe in diversifying zero-emission drivetrains, offering both battery-electric and fuel-cell-electric systems. This approach will contribute significantly to the UAE’s smart mobility strategy and the MENA region’s goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

What benefits do hydrogen fuel cell-powered cars offer?

BMW is accelerating smart mobility in the Middle East Hydrogen fuel cell-powered cars offer unparalleled advantages. They can be refuelled in 3-4 minutes, akin to conventional vehicles, yet provide all the benefits of electric mobility.

The BMW iX5 Hydrogen combines fuel cell tech with fifth-generation BMW eDrive, ensuring high performance over long distances. With its 700-bar tanks, it boasts a 504 km range and quick refuelling offers seamless long-distance travel, addressing EV charging limitations in certain areas.

Hydrogen, as an energy carrier, ensures efficient storage and transport, fostering a sustainable energy cycle. Its potential in the MENA region aligns with renewable energy, promising a cleaner future.

Hydrogen fuel has been touted as a potential solution to a swath of climate-related energy challenges in the mobility sector. Why is it that this clean energy hasn’t gone mainstream?

 Hydrogen fuel, despite its clean energy potential, has not gone mainstream in the mobility sector due to several challenges.

The lack of a robust refuelling infrastructure is one key factor. Compared to electric charging stations, hydrogen refuelling stations are less widespread, particularly in high-density areas.

Another hurdle lies in cost and production. Currently, the development and implementation of green hydrogen technology, produced through renewable sources, are not as cost-effective or scalable as traditional energy sources.

Technological maturity and perception also play a role. Hydrogen fuel cell technology is still evolving, and concerns about its efficiency, particularly in production and storage, contribute to slower adoption.

Lastly, global market dynamics, such as regional policies, government support, and the availability of renewable energy for hydrogen production, greatly influence its adoption rate.

Despite these challenges, companies such as ourselves remain dedicated to advancing hydrogen technology.

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