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Hydrogen factory:


BMW Group is already using hydrogen and fuel cells to make mobility greener. Not only to power the electric motors of their cars but as a piece in their’ Green Plant’-project.
Every day, more than 1.000 vehicles roll off the production lines at BMW Leipzig Plant. It’s not just one of the worlds most modern car production plants, but also one of the most sustainable.

” We have decarbonisation of the whole plant as a vision. It’s a puzzle with a lot of pieces, and currently, we are the only plant with wind turbines, natural gas and high voltage battery storage space,” says Dr Stefan Fenchel, Project Manager at BMW Group.

”Grünes Werk” - or The Green Plant - is the name of the project, which has made the plant CO2-neutral since 2018. The goal is to become carbon-free - which means not just offsetting the footprint but eliminate CO2-emissions all together.
BMW Group is pooling green technologies at the plant and pioneering specifically one area to reach this target.

”What we have developed since 2013 is the road of hydrogen. We were the first to set up an indo- or hydrogen fuel station in our plant, and now we’re setting up the fourth. Our indoor transportation ba- sed on hydrogen fuel is a success story that has been going on for several years. What people are talking about we’ve already done,” Dr Fenchel says.

A flexible fleet of hydrogen industrial trucks

With the surge of electric cars, hydrogen and fuel-cells have once again become a relevant technology for cars’ future. BMW Group is working on the technology for their production cars alongside Toyota; however, the technology might not mature as fast as we might want for the mainstream-market.

Nevertheless, BMW started moving forward using hydrogen for their industrial trucks like tugger trains and forklifts at the Leipzig plant. This way, technology is creating value years before it’s ready for cars. While BMW is one of the only companies already applying the technology at a commercial scale over battery-driven electric industrial trucks, the benefits are already showing.

”We could fuel 300 vehicles each shift at every filling station - and that is not possible with batteries. If battery-powered industrial trucks should be efficient, we would need 2-3 batteries per vehicle. With hydrogen, we just need one system for our whole fleet, which means less personal to handle the logistics,” explains Thomas Stiede, the Logistics Planer at BMW plant Leipzig responsible for the hydrogen-project.

With hydrogen, it takes less than 3 minutes to refuel the fuel cell industrial trucks. And the hydrogen-pipes have been installed on the roof which makes it flexible and scalable to distribute the hydrogen across the plant. If the filling station has to be relocated, it can be done over a weekend.

”It’s a success story we can keep expanding. Of course, we had a learning curve, but now others are visiting us to copy this solution,” Thomas Stiede says.

Building the infrastructure 

BMW’s ambition is to decrease the CO2-emissions in its production by 80 per cent before 2030. However, the production only accounts for 3 per cent of the energy consumption in the lifecycle of a car. Extrac- ting and refining the materials and the actual usage of the car accounts for the vast majority. Even in the 3 per cent emitted during production, only 1/3 is at the plant, while the rest is caused by transportation.
In other words, the hydrogen-industrial trucks are only a tiny part of the solution. But it’s an important step tow- ard hydrogen-cars, which holds vast potential. Even in the short term, there is a significant benefit: BMW leads the way toward a greener future by example.

”Bigger companies play an important role. Interlogistiscs has a huge effect on the outside world. We have gone that step and want to encourage others to follow our example because as the technology gets adopted at a bigger scale, it gets more impactful,” Dr. Fenchel says.

When BMW shows that hydrogen-industrial trucks are viable, it can spread to other plants in other industries. And scale is needed toward building hydrogen-pipelines across the Leipzig-region in 2024 before covering all of Germany in 2030.

” We don’t have enough wind energy or hydrogen suppli- ers in Germany at the moment, but in time we will. When we have access to hydrogen by pipeline, we can look at other use-cases. If we can install a hydrogen power plant in a few years, we can reach or even exceed the 80 per cent less CO2-emission in 2030. And if we can do it here it can be done anywhere,” Dr Fenchel says.

H2HAUL: The road to hydrogen trucks

  • BMW Group is a partner in the Horizon 2020 H2Haul-project which will develop and demonstrate a total of 16 new heavy-duty hydrogen fuel cell trucks. In addition, new high-capacity hydrogen refuelling stations will be installed to provide reliable, low carbon hydrogen supplies to the trucks.

  • The project will provide two heavy- duty hydrogen fuel cell trucks for BMW in the coming years to test in real-world commercial operations alongside a logistics service provider.

  • H2Haul consortium consists of 15 partners from seven European countries. The consortium includes equipment manufacturers and analysis, dissemination and coordination partners including Bosch, Powercell, H2Energy and Iveco.