Tony O'Kane | Aug 15, 2008

One of BMW's hydrogen-fuelled 7-series luxury sedans has hit the road and will travel across America as part of the 2008 Hydrogen Road Tour - an event designed to draw attention to the renewable fuel and to help get Congressional support for a USA-wide hydrogen refuelling station network.

While other cars in BMW's 100-strong Hydrogen 7 fleet are capable of running on both petrol and liquid hydrogen, the one currently undertaking the Hydrogen Road Tour is built to run on hydrogen alone. Unlike the other cars in the tour, the Hydrogen 7 doesn't run on the more complex fuel cell principle. Instead, the liquefied gas is fed straight into a 6-litre BMW V12 and combusted in much the same way as petrol.

Despite eschewing fuel cells, batteries and electric motors, the Hydrogen 7 still produces zero emissions, and the only thing emitted from its tail pipe is completely drinkable water. The downside? Thanks to its "old tech" V12 mill, the Hydrogen 7 returns an appalling fuel economy figure of 60l/100km on the gas, limiting its range to just 201km.

I've gotta ask though: if the whole purpose of the road trip is to get legislators interested in establishing a country-wide hydrogen distribution network, then how on earth are they refueling these vehicles throughout the trip when such infrastructure doesn't yet exist!? A hydrogen car cannot run on good intentions alone...

The BMW Hydrogen 7 – the first hydrogen-powered luxury sedan – is hitting the road in an unprecedented cross-country journey.

The car, which emits water safe enough to drink, will join other hydrogen-powered cars from the world’s leading automakers in the 2008 Hydrogen Road Tour.

From August 11 – 23, the hydrogen powered convoy will travel from the US cities of Portland, Maine to Santa Monica, California with one goal: to call on congressional leaders to support the creation of a nationwide hydrogen fuelling station infrastructure.

The Hydrogen Road Tour is a partnership with the U.S. Department of Transportation, U.S. Department of Energy, the California Fuel Cell Partnership and the National Hydrogen Association. In addition to BMW, participants include Daimler, GM, Honda, Hyundai-Kia, Nissan, Toyota, and VW. Also part of this broad coalition are hydrogen fuel providers Linde, BMW’s hydrogen fuel partner for the Tour, and Air Products.

“BMW has already logged nearly 2 million miles in our fleet of 100 BMW Hydrogen 7s. Being on this tour will show more people that hydrogen is truly the best alternative transportation fuel. An internal combustion engine, powered by hydrogen should play an important role in the future of sustainable mobility,” said Tom Baloga, BMW Vice President of Engineering, US.

What is most unusual about the Hydrogen Road Tour is the partnership between the world’s leading automakers, key federal departments, influential non-governmental organisations and hydrogen fuel providers to bring the reality of practical, clean energy to our nation’s legislators and the public. The tour will visit key members of Congress in their home states to allow them the opportunity to see and drive these cars.

BMW Hydrogen 7 is the only car on the tour that stores liquid hydrogen to power an internal combustion engine. Hydrogen is one of the cleanest energy sources available producing zero emissions. Essentially the only tailpipe emission is water vapour.

Mono-fuel Hydrogen 7 actually cleans the air

The tour fleet will include the mono-fuel version of the BMW Hydrogen 7, equipped with a V12 internal combustion engine which has been engineered to run exclusively on hydrogen. It was created to showcase the zero CO2 and low emissions potential and feasibility of a dedicated hydrogen internal combustion engine.

The Hydrogen 7’s V12 mono-fuel produces no CO2 and near-zero emissions, while not sacrificing performance. In fact, the tailpipe emissions are so infinitesimal they pushed the limits of current emission testing technology.

Independent authorities, including the Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), have confirmed these results. ANL conducted emission tests on BMW Hydrogen 7 mono-fuel vehicles in early March 2008 and found that not only were the emissions infinitesimally small but when running, the vehicle actually cleaned the air.

Exhaust emissions clean enough to drink

Recent studies have also confirmed the water emitted by the Hydrogen 7 is, in fact, safe to drink.

Exhaust from the mono-fuel Hydrogen 7 tested by FGL Environmental was found to be well within the limits set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for safe drinking water standards. The Maximum Contaminant Limit, abbreviated MCL, is the maximum limit set by the EPA for chemicals found in drinking water.

Results showed the MCL from mono-fuel H7 emissions to be in compliance with the health safety standards.

BMW Hydrogen 7 on the road

For more than a year, the BMW fleet of bi-fuel Hydrogen 7s has been an important milestone on the road to a hydrogen future, with more than 150 people driving nearly 2 million miles so far. The Pioneer Program, as it is called, has provided the flexibility of being able to gather real-world driving experience driving on hydrogen with the peace of mind that comes from knowing you won’t run out of fuel. In addition to the BMW hydrogen pioneers, hundreds of people from academia, students, media, as well as the general public, have had the opportunity to experience the BMW Hydrogen 7.

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