How much technology can you pack inside a BMW 1 Series hatchback? Quite a lot, apparently. Engineers in Munich have reportedly been tinkering with a hydrogen-powered hybrid electric powertrain stuffed inside the slender frame of the smallest 1 Series model.
At first glance, the silver hatchback looks just like any other Euro-spec 120d. Only the surroundings suggest the little Bimmer is something special. For starters, it’s hooked up to a refueling cart, and it’s also hooked up to a hydrogen refueling station. Of course, those “Hybrid Test Vehicle” stickers on the rear quarter windows — something we frequently saw on other BMW hybrid development vehicles — also give its secrets away.
If recent reports are accurate, the car pictured should utilize quite an unusual powertrain. According to Autocar, a conventional four-cylinder engine, snagged from a base Mini, drives the front wheels through a transaxle. Mounted just aft of the engine is a slender hydrogen fuel cell, which feeds power to two capacitors mounted in what normally would be the drive shaft tunnel. Those, in turn, power an 82-kW motor, which drives the rear wheels.
The two systems can work together to render the hatchback an all-wheel-drive vehicle, but the only way to cue up the traditional 1 Series configuration — rear-wheel-drive — is to run the car on electricity alone.