The South African Green Hydrogen Summit 2023 is currently taking place in Cape Town. One of the biggest stories (for car fans anyway) coming out of the event is that hydrogen powered BMWs are coming to SA.
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The news about the hydrogen powered BMWs came as part of a co-announcement between Anglo American Platinum, BMW South Africa and Sasol. The three firms have teamed up to show the possibilities of a hydrogen mobility ecosystem.
Each company brings its own strengths to the deal. Sasol will provide the green hydrogen, BMW will provide the vehicles and Anglo American Platinum will provide part of the funding, as will both other partners.
Green hydrogen is so called as it is produced without any carbon emissions. Hydrogen is abundant but it has to be extracted from other substances (mostly water). If this process is undertaken using renewable energy sources ie wind or solar, it is considered ‘green’. Sasol is currently producing 150 kg of green hydrogen a day, but that number can be ramped up massively should demand rise.
Sasol executive vice president for the energy business, Priscillah Mabelane, said: “As an organisation that has been producing and marketing hydrogen for more than 20 years, we know hydrogen. We produced our first batch of green hydrogen at our Sasolburg facility in June and in 2024 we will ramp this up to commercial scale when a 69 MW wind farm, situated in the Eastern Cape, comes online. As Sasol we are excited to be part of this demonstration, which has been strategic in showcasing local capability and the art of the possible.”
For those who aren’t aware, fuel-cell electric vehicles (FCEV) use pure hydrogen from which they create electricity. This electricity turns an electric motor that is connected to the wheels. The only ‘residue’ from this process is water vapour, which is passed directly into the atmosphere.
Examples of production FCEVs are the Toyota Mirai and the now discontinued Honda FCX Clarity. A fleet of BMW iX5 hydrogen powered derivatives is set to arrive in SA next year. An iX5 Hydrogen refuels in three to four minutes, providing about 500 km range from a 6 kg tank. The powertrain of this vehicle can produce a maximum output of 295 kW. The experimental vehicles have been undergoing real-world testing for over a year already.
“One technology on its own will not be enough to enable climate-neutral mobility worldwide. As a versatile energy source, hydrogen has a key role to play on the road to climate neutrality,” Peter van Binsbergen, CEO of BMW Group South Africa, said. “We believe South Africa – with its abundance of raw materials and sound infrastructure base – is ideally placed to deliver on the Green Hydrogen Economy’s promises.”