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BMW has released a new prototype hydrogen powered car. The bmwworld.com web page about it claims the cruising range is 190 miles. Added to the 400-mile range of the normal fuel tank, the 745h can go 600 miles between fill-ups. The first issue is that 10 miles are not accounted for (maybe it finishes the 190 miles of hydrogen power at the top of a hill). But more seriously the hydrogen needed to drive for 190 miles would take as much space as petrol needed to drive for 646 miles (hydrogen needs 3.4* the volume to store an equivalent amount of energy). I wonder if that BMW has any space left in the boot/trunk?
Now we have some green bloggers praising BMW. An internal combustion engine that burns hydrogen will not give no emissions other than water vapour, it will produce some nitrogen oxides. The processes to produce hydrogen for fuel all consume unreasonable amounts of energy (more than is required to charge a plug-in hybrid).
BMW demonstrates their level of interest by giving the cars to some celebrities. This gets some PR but no analysis of the performance. They also introduce the prototype based on one of the most expensive models (the 745) which you almost never see on the roads. If they produced a 318 or 520 that ran on hydrogen it would demonstrate some level of interest in getting this working for the mass market.
If BMW wanted to make their cars more environmentally friendly they would start by adopting some of the technology from the Prius. Rumour has it that part of Toyota’s plan to make money from Prius development is in licensing the technology that they patent. A couple of years ago I test drove a BMW 316 and a Prius. The Prius was very quiet and gave a smooth ride (you might call these luxury features), and also gave decent performance (it’s widely regarded that luxury cars should perform well – pity the BMW 316 is a slug).
In Australia the concept of “badge engineering” of cars is well established. When government subsidies favoured large manufacturing runs the Ford Laser and Mazda 323 were essentially the same car. Maybe BMW could adopt this concept and sell a re-badged Prius i-tech with a few extra luxury features as a BMW 4 series (it’s a much better car than the 3 series BMW).
Finally bmwworld.com has an amusing FAQ about hydrogen power, here are some of the mistakes that they make:
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