BMW Begins Production of Hydrogen-Powered iX5 Vehicle with 3D Printed Parts

Formnext Germany

Share this Article

BMW Group announced that the auto giant has begun small-scale production of the iX5, touted by the company as the world’s first “sports activity vehicle” powered by hydrogen fuel cells. The model features a number of components produced at BMW’s Additive Manufacturing (AM) Campus.

BMW currently plans for this initial, limited production run to be completed by next spring, at which point the iX5 will be released in “selected regions”: not for sale or lease, but solely as a “test fleet” intended for exhibition of the underlying technology. Although, for now, its final production will take place at BMW’s Munich Research and Innovation Center (FIZ), the iX5 is nonetheless the result of a decidedly global supply chain: BMW Group Plant Spartanburg (South Carolina) manufactures the base vehicles, whose design is derived from the platform of the X5.

In a press release announcing the iX5’s first production run, Frank Weber, member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, Development, commented, “…[Hydrogen] has a key role to play as we progress towards climate neutrality. …Fuel cells don’t require any critical raw materials such as cobalt, lithium or nickel either, so by investing in this type of drive system we are also strengthening the geopolitical resilience of the BMW Group.” Milan Nedeljković, member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, Production, added, “Production of the BMW iX5 Hydrogen and the BMW-developed fuel cell systems demonstrates our supreme flexibility and unrivaled know-how in the field of small-scale manufacture.”

Currently, there are still only two commercially available vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells, the Toyota Mirai and the Hyundai Nexo. Nevertheless, BMW is one of the most longstanding proponents of hydrogen-powered vehicles, having released two hydrogen concept cars — the 7-Series in the early 2000s, and 2015’s BMW 5-Series GT Hydrogen — prior to its work on the iX5.

Moreover, BMW and Toyota announced earlier this year that they have entered into a partnership for developing the technology for hydrogen vehicles, and BMW sources the fuel cells for the fuel cell stack used in the iX5 from Toyota. The Japanese powerhouse has also been increasingly public about its longstanding support for AM this year. Thus, it doesn’t seem like a stretch to say that, beyond jointly developing new technologies, BMW and Toyota are also collaborating on the advanced manufacturing supply chains that would need to be deployed, in order for those technologies to be scaled up.

This is precisely the context in which AM has the most significant role to play, for the automotive sector in particular, and for heavy industries, in general. These industries have historically only been profitable to the extent that they leverage their creation of and control over unrivaled economies-of-scale.

With that in mind, a company like BMW truly cannot afford to risk failure on mass-produced output at this point in its history. To have any realistic hope for success on a gambit like hydrogen vehicles, the only viable strategy is a series of limited production runs, with output capacity built up a little bit at a time in response to market demand. Additionally, that has to be done in a way that doesn’t interfere with its existing mass production assembly lines. Owing to this complicated combination of variables, only AM-centered, next generation manufacturing techniques support BMW’s ability to strike the delicate balance required for its hydrogen investments to pay off.

3DPrint.com and SmarTech Analysis are hosting Additive Manufacturing Strategies in New York City on February 7-9, 2023. Register for the event here to learn from and network with the most exciting companies and individuals in AM.

Share this Article

Recent News

Norwegian Oil Leader 3D Prints Critical Subsea Part

Sustainability in Manufacturing: Insights from 3D Printing Facilitator Fictiv’s 2023 Survey


3D Design

3D Printed Art

3D Printed Food

3D Printed Guns

You May Also Like


Analyzing True Sustainability in 3D Printing

Additive manufacturing (AM) has revolutionized the production landscape, enabling unprecedented levels of customization and complex design. However, with its rise, the focus on sustainability within AM has become essential. This...

Xometry Launches Dashboard Collaboration Tool for 3D Printing

3D printing platform Xometry (Nasdaq: XTMR) is expanding its focus on software to deliver added value for clients. A newly introduced order management dashboard aims to provide greater visibility across...

3D Printing Webinar and Event Roundup: July 23, 2023

This week’s webinar and event roundup is a little lighter, but there are still plenty of 3D printing offerings! Stratasys continues its U.S. tour, Markforged offers two more Demo Days,...

Xometry Bolsters AI Features Amid CEO Poll Indicating Rapid Adoption

AI-powered marketplace Xometry (Nasdaq: XMTR) announced today that it will extend its Xometry Instant Quoting Engine to include instant quoting of inserts, multi-part assemblies, and an expanded range of sheet-cutting...