Blog: Dave LeggettHydrogen: chicken and egg

Dave Leggett | 15 March 2007

I was chatting to BMW people earlier this week and we got on to the subject of hydrogen. BMW, you may recall, advocates the use of liquid hydrogen in an internal combustion engine. As other OEMs look to fuel cells in the distance, it's rather a lone furrow being ploughed by BMW, but it is sticking with it. 

In fact, BMW already makes a car that can run on liquid hydrogen - there's a 7 Series version - the aptly named 'Hydrogen 7'. A total of 100 BMW Hydrogen 7s will be built in 2007. Details on pricing and the destinations of the 100 cars are yet to be announced.

There is a slight problem though. Yes, you got it: what about the hydrogen refuelling infrastructure? It's classic chicken and egg. The oil companies won't do anything meaningful until there is sufficient demand from cars on the road to warrant the investment cost. But there won't be a huge clamour for such vehicles until the infrastructure is better developed.

To some extent, BMW has overcome the problem by making the engine adaptable for both hydrogen and petrol. There's a steering wheel-mounted button to enable a quick switch from one fuel tank to the other. You won't be stranded because you can't get a hydrogen refuel, but if the car is mainly used in petrol mode, what's the point?

Will be interesting to see where the first 100 go though.


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