Identity crisis: Is this BMW's hydrogen-powered i car, or a Chinese knockoff?

BMW had previously hinted it will introduce a mass-produced, hydrogen-powered model before the end of the decade. The yet-unnamed model is still quite a few years away from making its official debut, but images leaked out of a patent office in China might have given us an early look at it.

Published by Chinese website PCAuto, the pictures hint that BMW’s first regular-production hydrogen-powered model will take the form of a small coupe with a boxy-yet-aerodynamic design and narrow wheels. The only visual connections between the concept and members of BMW’s current lineup are sharp headlights and twin kidney grilles.

Beyond the front end, the coupe gets rakish A-pillars, heavily sculpted quarter panels and a gently sloping roof line that flows into a small spoiler built into the trunk lid. The mirrors have been replaced by cameras — a feature that all but confirms we’re looking at a concept — and, interestingly, the front windows are two-piece units reminiscent of the Subaru SVX that was built up until 1996.

Technical details haven’t been leaked, so precisely what the coupe is powered by is anyone’s guess at this point. Careful observers will notice it’s fitted with a filler flap on both sides, which hints the hydrogen fuel cell allegedly nestled under the carbon fiber body works jointly with an electric motor that’s linked to a battery pack. Odds are the concept is capable of driving on electricity alone for short distances.

Of course, we’re taking these pictures with a grain of salt. As enthusiast website BMW Blog points out, the car depicted in the images could simply be a new Chinese car designed to vaguely resemble a BMW. If the images are official, however, the concept could be presented later this month at the Los Angeles Motor Show.