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      12-15-2009, 03:49 PM   #1
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BMW said to be scaling back its Hydrogen program :(

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I sincerely hope this isn't true and is just media misinterpretation, but Edmunds InsideLine is reporting today that it believes the program is getting some major cuts. Why? BMW is looking to concentrate its engineering resources toward electric and hybrid vehicles. BMW's Hydrogen program has mainly been centered around a highly modified E65 7-Series running on liquid hydrogen fuel.

What is the BMW Hydrogen 7?
BMWs goal in making this car was to produce an alternative fuel vehicle that was not only 100% production ready, but one that still maintained the internal combustion engine. Unlike an electric car, this car still gives you similar power, torque and acceleration characteristics of today's car while running on a fuel supply that has no pollutants. The sticking point of this car was the fuel supply itself.

While there are companies out there and research is ongoing into the production and deployment of Hydrogen as a fuel supply it still is not cost effective on a large scale. Hydrogen has to first be captured which is an energy intensive process. Then of course, if the fuel is not immediately used it must be stored which required further energy in order to keep the Hydrogen in either a compressed gas or nearly frozen liquid.

The BMW Hydrogen 7 does not use highly compressed Hydrogen air as is conventional wisdom. (I assume due to safety concerns with driving around with a highly combustible gas behind your back). Instead, BMW went toward the cooled liquid route. The problem here being that the liquid must be converted before combustion and this introduced further energy loss into the cycle. (Many companies such as Gm/Ford who experimented with Hydrogen were actually using fuel cells-- don't confuse them because that is not a true combustion engine).

In the end, BMW build the hydrogen system ontop of its conventional 760i gasoline engine. The car was simply too thirsty to run on Hydrogen alone. This of course added weight and further hurt the efficiency of the car. The final configuration was a 12-cylinder engine converted to be able to run on both Hydrogen and conventional gasoline. Achieving 17mpg on gasoline and 50mpg on Hydrogen, with an output of 256HP and 290 lb-ft of torque. The car ran up to 60mph in 9.3s.

Why the demise?

None of this is new information. If and when BMW confirms or denies this report, we can only make a few guesses. Perhaps BMW saw the end to this technology and felt it couldn't take it any further until the fuel cycle and storage obstacles were overcome. Or maybe it is the fact that the US is consumed with the electric motor as the only viable alternative powertrain at the moment. Audi of America president Johan de Nysschen recently bemoaned the countries obsession with EVs. Living in the US its hard to ignore the amount of energy being put behind EVs and perhaps BMW decided to get on board?

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Although the reality of the car was not quite there yet, BMW put up a good fight and advocated the concept across the globe. BMW insisted that further research could take this model to the point where the car would be viable. Much of BMWs push was through marketing that tried to bring mainstream awareness to the car. BMW tried giving the car out to celebrities in different countries. It tried establishing new speed records in the form of the H2R. It even converted the car into one of its famed Art cars.

In the end, I understand the technology is still not there yet; however, I think BMWs concept of what the car of the future will be is squarely with the enthusiasts. We want a combustion engine, not an electric one. And its a sad day to see this car shelved. InsideLine believes the car's entire strategy is flawed and the program will die a quiet death. I think its the complete opposite, I think the idea is to maintain all the positive qualities of the present day car and move it into a green and energy independent new world. Sure the technology isn't there, but hopefully this car is not lost or forgotten and the program is revived with new advances.

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      12-15-2009, 05:00 PM   #2
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It was about time, hydrogen cars stand no chance in todays market. Let alone a v12 hydrogen 7 series.
Here are the three main problems with hydrogen vehicles:

1) Hydrogen is not easily accessible
2) The average price of a hydrogen car is 1,000,000 USD
3) Hydrogen fuel (as of today) can not be produced at a reasonable price.
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      12-15-2009, 05:02 PM   #3
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/\ As well, hydrogen produced very poor mileage and would not be readily available in a large market.

About time. Cut your losses, BMW.
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      12-15-2009, 05:04 PM   #4
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This is inevitable

Anyone would not be far off predicting this outcome when BMW unveiled its plug-in hybrid/diesel Vision Concept. An infrastructure for reliable hydrogen distribution isn't there to make hydrogen combustion commercially viable, while hybrid on the other hand is a natural evolution of the IC engine because it utilizes the power grid. What were they thinking? Still I think the company's effort deserves accolades.
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      12-15-2009, 06:02 PM   #5
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stop the crap and concentrate on supercharged engines on bimmers. MORE POWERRRRRR
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      12-15-2009, 07:04 PM   #6
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The world is not ready for such a car yet. There is still a alot of research to do for hydrogen.
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      12-15-2009, 07:07 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NoSurrender View Post
1) Hydrogen is not easily accessible
3) Hydrogen fuel (as of today) can not be produced at a reasonable price.
These two issues will also affect electric fuel cell vehicles. For EV's to become prevalent, at least one of two things will have to happen:

1. Producing hydrogen fuel at a lower cost and developing the fueling infrastructure. (for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles)
2. Improvements in battery technology that reduce cost while increasing capacity. (for electric vehicles utilizing batteries only)

From the few articles I've read about nano-technologies being used to create batteries with 5x the capacity of current lithium batteries, I'm guessing option 2 is the route we'll see taken in the future. With that kind of capacity upgrade, EV cars would have a respectable driving range while being charged off the grid. This off course leads to the need for the grid to generate clean electricity from alternative methods (solar, wind, hydro).

In the meantime, I suspect we'll see a growing number of hybrids, diesels, and possibly diesel hybrids.
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      12-15-2009, 07:15 PM   #8
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BMW announced this already

With the launch of F01 BMW AG officially announced that there would be no hydrogen version. They have developed the engine, the holding/cooling tank to production form already, they said they have the technology to build a car so they do not need to further develop.

BMWs official stance is: "We have the technology, have built a working fleet- when the world is ready with infrastructure we will begin to produce it again."

They are right- They already reach their goal, things are ready when the world is. They are awaiting a hydrogen highway.

Keep an eye out for more electric concepts/ cars like the MINI E to pick up the bulk of the future vehicle powerplants, BMW is set on this MegaCity vehicles and project-i....

Last edited by mapezzul; 12-15-2009 at 08:22 PM.
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      12-15-2009, 07:48 PM   #9
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Hydrogen is not a viable fuel source. Actually it isn't a fuel source at all, but a "transporter" of energy like, ahem, electricity. The energy is still produced from coal or oil or gas. Until utilities become cleaner, cars will remain "dirty." Oh well...
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      12-16-2009, 04:17 AM   #10
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I read about it a few weeks ago in the German Newspaper "Die Welt" and their main reason was: range! They could not get more than 200 miles +/- out of it.
But they also mentioned a return within the next 20 years ;-)
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      12-16-2009, 06:57 AM   #11
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might as well develop more turbo diesel
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      12-16-2009, 12:23 PM   #12
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      12-16-2009, 12:26 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bluesummer View Post
might as well develop more turbo diesel
this is the best answer and my 2010 X5 35d is incredible - put the turbo diesel in more models for the US market please
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      12-16-2009, 11:32 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DylanPS View Post
Hydrogen is not a viable fuel source. Actually it isn't a fuel source at all, but a "transporter" of energy like, ahem, electricity. The energy is still produced from coal or oil or gas. Until utilities become cleaner, cars will remain "dirty." Oh well...
I won't argue the viability of Hydrogen as a fuel source but it is a fuel source. A fuel is defined as a source that is processed to obtain energy. Through combustion (a chemical reaction) coal, gas, and oil release their energy while producing smaller chemical molecules that happen to be pollutants. Through a specific chemical reaction, Hydrogen is coupled with Oxygen to produce water. This resulting chemical reaction produces energy, so by definition Hydrogen is a fuel.
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      12-18-2009, 05:01 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pmeloche View Post
I won't argue the viability of Hydrogen as a fuel source but it is a fuel source. A fuel is defined as a source that is processed to obtain energy. Through combustion (a chemical reaction) coal, gas, and oil release their energy while producing smaller chemical molecules that happen to be pollutants. Through a specific chemical reaction, Hydrogen is coupled with Oxygen to produce water. This resulting chemical reaction produces energy, so by definition Hydrogen is a fuel.
I think he refers to economic viability, rather than technical viability. When he said that Hydrogen is a energy transporter, he is correct because fuel-grade hydrogen are not readily available in nature and can only be generated through chemical reaction that consumes energy (ie. petroleum cracking, water splitting, etc).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrogen_production

Petroleum cracking just converts hydrogen from oil. It doesn't make sense to generate hydrogen from oil for transportation if you can use the oil itself from the first place.

You can of course generate hydrogen through splitting water, but the energy you can extract from the hydrogen being generated this way is less than the amount of energy being applied in the water splitting reaction in the first place. However, if the energy you use to split the water IS renewable (ie. solar, wind, etc), the hydrogen generated becomes an energy transporter.

To be economically viable, we will need to have comprehensive infrastructure to 1) generate hydrogen with economically viable process, and 2) distribute hydrogen through a robust infrastructure -- more robust than one that we have at the moment in distributing petrol (since hydrogen will likely be transported in highly pressurised liquified form).

Solar hydrogen technology is available (to split water using sun light and specific catalyst). However, efficiency of this process is currently economically prohibitive. Not to mention, the absence of comprehensive infrastructure to distribute hydrogen economically, safely and reliably...

And yes, I agree, EVs are being held back by the absence of high capacity battery. For the moment, max range per charge is around 100 miles (if I recall correctly). Range anxiety. Also, EVs will only as green as the electricity powering them - ie. if you live in a country that has high carbon intensity in your electricity generation (eg. lots of coal generation, very little renewable), you will be emitting more carbon by driving a pure electric vehicle than driving normal hybrid electric vehicle or traditional petrol-powered vehicle.

The most viable at the moment are hybrid electric vehicles, followed by pure EVs - when battery technology improves, then followed by hydrogen vehicles in the future.

Just my 2 cents worth.

Last edited by red_eagle; 12-23-2009 at 10:14 PM.
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