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BMW launches test fleet of 100 hydrogen vehicles in Berlin

Monday, November 13, 2006 by: Ben Kage
Tags: clean energy, hydrogen fuel cells, hydrogen cars

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(NewsTarget) Soaring gas prices and dwindling fossil fuel supplies have increased interest in alternatives such as hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, and while that technology has had many hurdles, German automaker BMW is now making progress with a test fleet of hydrogen driven vehicles.

As early as next March, the a 100-vehicle fleet of the BMW Hydrogen 7 is set to be delivered to a group of elite customers including politicians, celebrities, star athletes and industry leaders, in order to test the luxury vehicles in real world conditions. Names already being thrown around include Madonna, Al Gore, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dr. David Suzuki.

According to BMW spokespersons, hydrogen is the fuel of the future because it is the most common element in the universe, and therefore easily obtained, and is environmentally clean. Hydrogen-fueled vehicles usually emit nothing more than water vapor. The Hydrogen 7 is not fuel cell driven, but BMW's scientists project such technology could be incorporated into future generations of the vehicle, allowing it to power additional vehicle features such as air conditioning.

"We have now achieved an important milestone on our way to sustainable mobility," said Dr. Klaus Schearer of BMW's Traffic and Environment Board, at last week's launch of the vehicle in Berlin. "It is no secret in saying that the world's fossil energy supply is coming to an end.

"The future of mobility concerns us all if we are to sustain our standard of living in the future," he added.

The vehicle's six-liter, V12 hydrogen engine has a range of roughly 124 miles on its 17.6 pound tank of liquid hydrogen, but the engine will also be able to run on gasoline with the push of a button, giving it an additional range of about 310 miles. BMW admits that hydrogen is prone to "boiling off" over time, causing some loss in fuel efficiency, but notes that such a process is only likely to start 17 hours after refueling.

The safety of the hydrogen tank was also rigorously tested, as the vehicle was crash tested, hit with iron bars, set aflame and even shot at without incident.

Spokespersons at the launch would not announce the price of the Hydrogen 7, but experts estimate the vehicle has a material cost of more than $380,000 U.S. dollars but could be worth as much as $1.5 million if the cost of research is included. The spokespersons did reveal that the celebrity clean energy "pioneers" would be assigned a personal assistant for the car as well as mobile fueling stations and a team of technicians during the six-month lease.

"We have no price on the car," said BMW hydrogen technology researcher Dr. Frank Ochmann. "We regard this as an offer to society to show society where we stand on clean energy."


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