By Naomi Tajitsu
TOKYO, Oct 29 (Reuters) - BMW AG on Wednesday said its first fuel cell vehicle would likely be a larger-sized sedan which would put on the market after 2020, when a hydrogen development partnership ends between the German luxury automaker and Toyota Motor Corp.
Under its partnership with Toyota, BMW is developing a way to compress hydrogen at ultra-low temperatures to increase its storage volume, using as a base a fuel cell stack developed by Japan's largest automaker.
BMW and Toyota have been cooperating on fuel cell technology since 2013, just before Toyota introduced its Mirai fuel cell model in late 2014.
While the Mirai can travel around 700 kilometres on a single hydrogen fueling, the German automaker said it was developing a vehicle which would travel further, using compressed hydrogen, a process which would take a few more years to perfect.
"It will be sometime after 2020," Merten Jung, head of fuel cell development at BMW, told Reuters in an interview at the Tokyo Motor Show.
He added: "We don't have a model yet, but ... as the character of our technology favours larger cars, our model will probably be something like a long distance car, a larger sedan."
Fuel cell vehicles run on electricity created by mixing hydrogen, the world's most commonly available element, with oxygen, and emitting water in the process, rather than carbon emissions created by gasoline vehicles.
This makes them viable "zero-emissions" vehicles, but research is expensive due to costly components and the need to create fueling infrastructure, prompting many of the world's largest automakers to strike up development partnerships.
BMW's hydrogen car will likely be bigger than Toyota's mid-sized Mirai, and the five-seat Clarity Fuel Cell launched by Honda on Wednesday.
Jung at BMW said it was unlikely that BMW and Toyota would produce a fuel cell car together, as the world's biggest luxury car maker and the world's best selling car maker largely targeted different markets.
"As we have two different opinions as companies when it comes to products on the market, we probably won't have the same car on the market," he said.
"At a certain point there needs to be a difference between Toyota and BMW, and where things need to be separate, but until that point, anything is possible." (Reporting by Naomi Tajitsu; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)