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BMW Hydrogen 7: Bliss Or Anathema?

The German automaker BMW earlier announced its upcoming vehicle known as the BMW Hydrogen 7. The vehicle serves as the world’s first hydrogen-powered luxury performance car. It will be manufactured in a limited edition in Europe and will be later on sold to the American market.

The BMW Hydrogen 7 is a hydrogen vehicle that is equipped with cutting-edge BMW body parts to complement its powerful yet environment-friendly nature. It is based on the chassis of the standard 7-series. Its internal combustion engine is capable of running on either hydrogen or gasoline. The engine of the vehicle is powered by a 260kW, 12-cylinder engine and accelerates from zero to 100km/h in 9.5 seconds. The top speed is limited electronically to 229km/h. The hydrogen technology imbibed in the vehicle trims down emissions of carbon dioxide. When the vehicle is running in the hydrogen mode, it emits nothing but vapor.

The coming of BMW’s green car is given enough publicity and aspirations. “Leave it to BMW to come up with a viable alternative to fuel cells, electric propulsion, and storage batteries,” Automobile magazine said of the BMW Hydrogen 7. Nevertheless, the introduction of said vehicle leaves so many questions unanswered. Will it be considered as an anathema or would it be the other way around?

“Like money, hydrogen is plentiful but not easily obtained,” wrote Don Sherman in one of the issues of Automobile. “The most noticeable difference between the two fuel modes [hydrogen and gasoline] is a sharper, more metallic edge to the engine note during acceleration on hydrogen. Only by listening carefully can you hear the gurgle of the engine coolant circulating to warm the chilly hydrogen for combustion.” Sherman concluded, “BMW’s Hydrogen 7 is encouraging evidence that pistons and spark plugs could survive to entertain us for decades to come in the era of carbon-free fuel.”

One of the first journalists to drive the BMW Hydrogen 7 is BBC News business reporter Jorn Madslien. He assessed whether the vehicle is indeed a green initiative or a cynical market trap. Behind the powerful and efficient car is a set of auto drawbacks. The worst so far is finding refueling stations.

"We don't have a problem about saying it is a marketing exercise," admitted Timm Kehler. Kehler is the person responsible for marketing BMW's early developments and innovation projects. The saving grace lies on the taking of a long-term commercial risk. "It shows the company can respond quickly to increases in the price of fossil fuel," Kehler said, adding that as the world will eventually run out of oil and gas "we'll need to start this now if we want to exist in the future".

BMW has already received plenty of offers from politicians and executives, scientists and athletes, celebrities and other famous personalities, all eager to help "create visibility for hydrogen.” Among the long list of popular people are Madonna, Al Gore, David Suzuki and Arnold Schwarzenegger. They are queuing up to endorse the car and perhaps further boost their own green images in the process.

"All innovation invokes expensive solutions that can best be pumped into the market from the top end," explained Kehler. "Here we have customers who are affluent and who are committed to technology. They are in a position to pay for technology that may prove to be the status symbols of the future."

Despite the apparent shortfalls, the project is about much more than merely marketing, Kehler explained. "I think the car itself shows you it is not just a façade." Wolfgang Leder of Total Deutschland's new energy team added, "What we see here is a far reaching, advanced and mature technology. We want people who invest in filling stations to know there are users out there."

"Hydrogen is an energy carrier," Leder pointed out. “There are several ways to produce it. Wind power would be the best, or solar." On a positive note, BMW's marketing and brand manager, Torsten Muller-Otvos, predicted, "One day, even petrol and diesel will have to compete with hydrogen.”

About the Author: Correy Putton is a 28-year old bachelor from Pittsburgh, PA who has been around cars for the better part of his life. He now works online and writes all about his passion: cars. He is also a certified mechanic.

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