BMW Hydrogen 7 Review

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We drove the car to the hydrogen filling station and topped it off.  I was handed the key, I plotted in a course for Newport Beach via the Pacific Coast Highway, and off I went.

I didn’t know that I was about to become a celebrity of sorts.  As I made my way to down to the PCH, I marveled at how normal the car felt.  I started to forget about the telltale markings on the side, concentrating both on the road and the magnificent view.  All along the way, people were waving and giving me the thumbs-up sign.

As I expected, despite its size, the Hydrogen 7 was very engaging from behind the wheel, perhaps best described as athletic and refined at the same time.  The twisties in the hills of Los Angeles were easily conquered by this water-spouting beast.  Steering was excellent with superb feedback and, while nimble might be an exaggeration, the word did cross my mind more than several times.

My destination was the Fairmont Newport Beach, a hotel with a green reputation to match the Hydrogen 7’s, and the drive of ca. 110 miles should have taken me two hours.  With traffic, it actually took me closer to 3.5 hours.  I alternated between gasoline and hydrogen during the drive, and was out of hydrogen before I arrived, but the most remarkable thing about the experience was the fact that the car’s performance was exactly the same regardless of the fuel source.

As soon as I had pulled up in front of the hotel’s main entrance, I noticed a stream of people heading towards me – or was it towards the car?  The hotel’s general manager was in the crowd and welcomed me, announcing that the hotel’s policy of free parking for hybrid vehicles would be extended to cover hydrogen-powered cars as well.

After two days in Newport Beach, I needed to head towards Santa Monica for a day of meetings, so I packed up the Hydrogen 7 and drove to the Fairmont Miramar Hotel Santa Monica.   A block from the ocean on Wilshire Boulevard, the Hydrogen 7 no doubt felt at home.  I did too, after seeing the ocean view from my room.

BMW has been the only automaker to bring a liquid hydrogen-powered car beyond the prototype stage and driving the car gave me the opportunity to ponder hydrogen as a potential fuel source as well as the challenges that a lack of infrastructure would bring.  While the company is not planning to produce a Hydrogen 7 based on the new (F01) 7er Series platform, the company’s research continues in this area.  Whether hydrogen will supplant gasoline and diesel as  a primary fuel remains to be seen, but the lessons learnt from the fleet of 100 Hydrogen 7 BMWs will contribute greatly to the development of alternative fuel powerplants in the years to come.

2007 BMW Hydrogen 7
Base price Est. $500,000
Drivetrain Front engine, rear-wheel drive
Engine 6.0 liter/260 hp/ dual-mode internal combustion V-12
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Curb weight (lbs) 5,100
Wheelbase (inches) 123.2
Length x width x height (inches) 203.9 x 74.9 x 58.7
0-62 mph (seconds) 9.5
City/highway fuel economy (mpg) Gasoline 16.9/Hydrogen 4.7
Fuel tank capacity Gasoline 19.5 gallons/Hydrogen 8 kg (19 pounds)
Cruising Range (miles) Gasoline 310/Hydrogen 125

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