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Better than a battery electric vehicle? Meet the 2025 BMW iX5 Hydrogen - the zero emissions SUV for towing and long-distance driving that could one day replace petrol and diesel models like the Toyota Prado and Land Rover Defender

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BMW has toured its iX5 Hydrogen ‘pilot’ vehicle through Australia, showcasing its driving range and theoretical towing capabilities as a genuine alternative to a battery electric vehicle.

You won’t be able to buy an iX5 Hydrogen anytime soon though, as the current fleet, of “less than 100 vehicles” are all hand-built prototypes, but BMW is using the production-ready SUVs to show how it can implement the technology with some degree of ease in formats that will be familiar to its buyers.

Why hydrogen at all? You may have heard that hydrogen fuel-cell technology is suited primarily as a diesel replacement for heavy vehicles, as the infrastructure cost is too high to be supported by passenger vehicles alone.

This is why brands with big commercial divisions, like Toyota and Hyundai, are primarily invested in the tech.

However, BMW, which has no commercial division, has broken convention with many of its rival brands to say that hydrogen is not only useful for its passenger cars, but actually a necessary part of its mix to more economically help it reach its net zero emissions goals.

Not only does the brand claim that having even a small part of its fleet using hydrogen fuel-cell technology will bring the overall cost down up to 34 per cent compared to battery electric alone, but it also says it is key to offering choice to its buyers.

2025 BMW iX5 Hydrogen.
2025 BMW iX5 Hydrogen.

“We think offering options, being technology open, being technology agnostic, is the best way to engage with our customers. To give everybody the right powertrain and the right vehicle for their needs,” BMW’s Head of Hydrogen Powertrain Technology, Jurgen Guldner, explained to Australian journalists.

BMW chose the X5, a large SUV, as the demo vehicle for its hydrogen technology for two main reasons. Firstly - it was able to seamlessly fit the required components without significantly structurally modifying the vehicle, and secondly it wanted to provide an example of an ideal use-case for the technology.

The X5 is large and heavy, and not as aerodynamically shaped as a lot of EVs, and thus is more suited to hydrogen power, where range comes at less of a premium compared to a battery electric. As Guldner says, the X5 is also the kind of vehicle with which buyers frequently tow trailers.

2025 BMW iX5 Hydrogen.
2025 BMW iX5 Hydrogen.

While a trailer will significantly impact the range of a battery electric vehicle due to both its weight and aerodynamic qualities, these are significantly less of an issue with a hydrogen fuel cell.

As an added bonus, hydrogen is capable of maintaining its driving range in a wider array of extreme temperature conditions, and from an environmental perspective, requires fewer raw materials when compared to a battery electric.

The iX5 carries just six kilograms of hydrogen fuel in cylindrical tanks located under the floor. It refuels in a similar time to a petrol or diesel vehicle, and yet can travel a full 504km on a single tank, according to the WLTP testing cycle.

2025 BMW iX5 Hydrogen.
2025 BMW iX5 Hydrogen.

It drives the rear wheels via the same motor unit which powers the iX electric SUV, with a combined output of 295kW.

The power for this is generated by a fuel-cell stack manufactured by Toyota, but upgraded by BMW. It has more membranes and upgraded auxiliaries pushing power from to 125kW.

This is then supported by an uprated lithium-ion buffer battery, which is used to store energy from the motor’s regenerative braking, with a peak output of 170kW. BMW says the two combined can produce a stable 295kW to be used by the electric motor.

2025 BMW iX5 Hydrogen.
2025 BMW iX5 Hydrogen.

Otherwise the iX5 takes the guise of a high-spec X5 production car, with the usual luxurious trimmings and digital features, alongside a unique grille, blue-tinged bodywork touches and a unique set of wheels.

To drive, the iX5 feels no different to what you’d imagine a battery electric X5 to feel like. Although the fuel-cell stack and battery seems like a more complex equation, to the end-user it’s just as smooth as a battery electric vehicle, with strong acceleration, multiple levels of regenerative braking, and, of course, BMW’s Hans Zimmer soundtrack to go with it.

It’s lighter than an equivalent iX, but still feels its additional weight occasionally. The air suspension system the demo cars are equipped with helps to filter out the bumps in the road and keep the car balanced in corners.

2025 BMW iX5 Hydrogen.
2025 BMW iX5 Hydrogen.

So when will you be able to buy one? Guldner tells us the brand hasn’t decided on when production might start for a hydrogen vehicle, and even when it does, whether it launches in to a market will depend on the maturity of the refuelling infrastructure. But he did say a production vehicle could be on sale somewhere in the world before the end of the decade.

There was also no doubt judging by BMW’s presentation that the iX5 Hydrogen would be the harbinger of not just one distinct hydrogen model, but an entire range of hydrogen powered vehicles in familiar body styles. Guldner said the brand would be aiming to replicate the same strategy that's seen its electric ‘i’ series models roll out across almost its entire range to date.

Tom White
Senior Journalist
Despite studying ancient history and law at university, it makes sense Tom ended up writing about cars, as he spent the majority of his waking hours finding ways to drive as many as possible. His fascination with automobiles was also accompanied by an affinity for technology growing up, and he is just as comfortable tinkering with gadgets as he is behind the wheel. His time at CarsGuide has given him a nose for industry news and developments at the forefront of car technology.
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