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BMW mulls fuel for thought

Quiet achiever: BMW's H2R has set nine speed records.

BMW is poised to introduce a hydrogen/petrol-powered luxury sedan within 12 months

15 Sep 2005

BMW will launch a dual-fuel hydrogen-petrol version of the 7 Series in Germany within about 12 months as part of its development of hydrogen-fuelled internal combustion engines.

The company believes hydrogen-powered conventional engines might be a better solution than hydrogen fuel cell cars.

The 7 Series is certain to be powered by the circa-210kW 6.0-litre V12 hydrogen engine used in BMW’s H2R Record Car, which last year set nine records at speeds of 300km/h and above.

BMW chairman, Dr Helmut Panke, told GoAuto this was part of a move to go beyond internal pilot programs and cars for internal use and to test these new technologies in the real world.

But he said it would still be many years before hydrogen vehicles were in general use.

"I think realistically we will have to wait until about 2020 until something like 10 to 15 per cent of the vehicles being offered are fuelled either by just hydrogen or a bi-fuel solution." He said there was also a question over using hydrogen to power fuel cell cars or whether to use hydrogen in conventional internal combustion engines, which is the direction BMW is pursuing.

But, he said, no matter which way it goes both solutions require hydrogen at the filling stations.

"With hydrogen, the big questions are the technological issues of storage (of hydrogen) for fuel cells and, on the other hand, how do we get the infrastructure for the filling stations?" * Shifting its emphasis away from hydrogen IC engines or hydrogen fuel cell vehicles for the first time, BMW has joined DaimlerChrysler and General Motors in an alliance to develop petrol-electric hybrid vehicle drive systems.

The three car-makers have signed a memorandum of understanding for the project, which aims to develop a "two-mode" hybrid drive system that reduces fuel consumption without compromising vehicle capability.

Vehicles using this technology can be powered by either two electric motors or by the combustion engine, or with both drive systems working simultaneously.

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