1. Hydrogen Doesn't Mean Just Fuel Cells Most automakers are developing hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. However, BMW, as well as Ford and Mazda, are developing vehicles with conventional internal combustion engines running on hydrogen. Unlike fuel cell vehicles that are still several, even many, years in the future, hydrogen internal combustion engines (H2ICEs) have the potential to come to market cheaper and sooner. Like fuel cells, H2ICEs can be used in zero emission vehicles with exhaust emissions that are primarily water.
2. BMW H2ICEs on the Road BMW has been working with hydrogen vehicles for over 25 years and has introduced its seventh generation H2ICE. In 2006, BMW put nearly 100 bi-fuel BMW Hydrogen 7s in the hands of drivers in the U.S. and other countries. Because of the still-limited availability of hydrogen, with a touch of a button the bi-fuel hydrogen V-12 engine in these luxury sedans can run on either gasoline or hydrogen. On either fuel, the 12-cylinder engine produces 260 horsepower and the top speed is an electronically limited 143 mph. Hydrogen, stored in cryogenic liquid form, provides a cruising range of over 125 miles with another 300 miles when running on a separate 19.5-gallon gasoline tank. BMW has followed up with the introduction of the mono-fuel Hydrogen 7 with an engine that's been optimized to run exclusively on hydrogen. This version achieves even lower emissions, increased engine performance, reduced fuel consumption, and greater range than the bi-fuel Hydrogen 7.
3. Advantages of H2ICEs A big advantage of H2ICEs is their minimal required changes in engine manufacturing and the maintenance infrastructure. Engine manufacturers can build H2ICEs on the same production lines as conventional gasoline and diesel engines. The BMW Hydrogen 7 sedan and its V-12 engine are built alongside regular 5-, 6- and 7-Series sedans on assembly lines in Germany. In comparison, hydrogen fuel cells will require large investments in new manufacturing facilities and equipment. The same equipment, tools, and facilities can be used for maintaining and servicing hydrogen internal combustion engines as those running on gasoline. Training technicians to service H2ICEs is much like that for other alternative fuels, whereas fuel cells require training for a completely new technology.
4. A Stepping Stone to the 'Hydrogen Economy' H2ICEs can speed up the establishment of a hydrogen distribution infrastructure, bolstering the transportation sector for the so-called 'hydrogen economy.' H2ICEs have almost all the advantages of a hydrogen fuel cell but at a fraction of their cost. Thus, they have the potential to be affordable for consumer use sooner.
5. Hydrogen BMWs are Still 'Ultimate Driving Machines' Both versions of the BMW Hydrogen 7 share the performance, comfort, and safety qualities of every production BMW 7 Series car. That's one of the reasons BMW is developing H2ICEs rather than fuel cell vehicles. Can you imagine an 'Ultimate Driving Machine' that doesn't go VROOM-VROOM when you step on the accelerator? A virtually silent fuel cell with electric motors would simply be out of character.