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Aside from showing its direct water injection technology at the its Innovation Days technology showcase, BMW has also pulled the wraps off its i8-based hydrogen fuel-cell prototype, affording the motoring world its first glimpse at what is, arguably, one of the marque’s most advanced research vehicles.

The unnamed BMW i8-based hydrogen fuel-cell prototype was first constructed in 2012 and has since been employed as a test bed on four wheels for the German carmaker to conduct experiments on hydrogen fuel-cell technology. The marque plans to put said technology into its production vehicles by the end of 2020, according to R&D chief, Klaus Fröhlich, in a report by Autocar UK.

Stylistically, the prototype differs from the BMW i8 by adopting a slightly reworked front fascia, comprised of a squared-off kidney grille design and slimmer headlights – the look is said to preview the design language of future BMW i models. The overall shape is the result of hours spent at BMW’s wind tunnel. Larger air intakes in front help channel the airflow towards an array of front-mounted radiators.

Although BMW has decided to stay mum on exact details, it is understood that the prototype houses its fuel stack in the same location where one would find the regular i8’s turbocharged 1.5 litre three-cylinder petrol engine. Power for the fuel-cell comes courtesy of cryogenically-stowed hydrogen that is placed inside a tank placed low in the centre of the vehicle and oxygen.

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The car is then propelled by a rear-mounted electric motor, generated by the fuel-cell, with water being the only element emitted. Total power output has been rated at 242 hp. Aside from its i8-base prototype, BMW is also in the midst of experimenting with hydrogen fuel-cell technology on a fleet of 5 Series GT-based mules.

As part of its plan to roll out hydrogen fuel-cell technology for the masses, the marque has also established a joint-venture with Toyota to bring said plan to fruition. Further reinforcing its commitment to marketing hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles, the 5 Series GT-based prototypes feature the same technology that is currently in service in the Toyota Mirai – the first hydrogen fuel-cell car to go on sale.

Said prototypes are propelled by an electric motor producing a total of 245 hp. The supply of hydrogen itself is housed within a tank mounted between the front and rear axle and is cryogenically-stored at an industry-standard pressure of 700 bar. Operational range has been touted at over 500 km.