BMW Hydrogen 7 Review

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The Fuel of the Future?

At the turn of the last century, conventional wisdom said that the buggy whip industry was too big to fail.  Indeed, one automotive entrepreneur of the time is credited with saying that, if he had listened to his customers, he would have built better buggy whips, not a motorcar.

BMW views liquid hydrogen as a viable candidate for an automotive power source 20 years down the road.   The fact that, as of today, there is almost no infrastructure to make and distribute liquid hydrogen, and the cost of doing so is rather high, is beside the point, as are the arguments of those who view gas-electric (or diesel-electric) hybrids or electric cars as the future.

The experimentation BMW and others are engaging in is designed to help the industry understand what will ultimately supersede the gasoline-powered internal combustion engine as a primary powerplant.  Indeed, BMW is contributing to the body of knowledge simply by putting a fleet of regular production cars on the road that just happen to run on liquid hydrogen.

Unlike other hydrogen-powered vehicles (including those produced by General Motors and Honda) which use fuel-cell technology and hydrogen to produce electricity to power the car, the BMW Hydrogen 7 burns the hydrogen in a modified internal combustion engine by injecting the hydrogen directly into the air intake manifold to be combusted in the engine’s cylinders.  BMW says this is a more efficient use of hydrogen compared to the fuel-cell approach.

One thing, however, is undisputed. These cars don’t pollute. The only thing coming out of their tailpipes is water vapor.  A 2008 test of the exhaust from a mono-fuel version of the Hydrogen 7 found that the water vapor not only to be potable but to be well within the limits set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

In fact, BMW regularly hands out bottles of water at industry events with an unusual label.  The bottle doesn’t say Evian or San Pellegrino. It simply says EXHAUST.  Click here to continue to page 3.

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