I had the privilege of driving the BMW Hydrogen 7 luxury automobile at the Greater Los Angeles Auto Show on November 30 during Press Days, when members of the media are invited to test the automakers’ latest offerings. Thanks to Andreas Klugescheid and Tom Korn from BMW for letting me take a couple of laps around the Los Angeles Convention Center and discussing the rollout of 100 Hydrogen 7 automobiles (25 in the U. S.) early next year.
I had previously interviewed Mr. Klugescheid who is Corporate Communications Manager for BMW North America on the September 14 and he was good enough to clear up some misinformation that the media had been bandying about concerning the BMW Hydrogen 7.
There were several items that struck me when first proceeding to test drive the Hydrogen 7 automobile. First was the keyless entry device that not only opened the doors but also was recognized by the vehicle and so no actual key was needed. In fact, there was no slot for a key, only a start / stop button where a key would be on a normal auto.
The BMW can start up in either gasoline or H2 mode with the press of the start button and with the press of another button on the steering wheel, the auto can switch from hydrogen to gasoline mode and back again. There are also two fuel gauges on the dashboard, one on top of each other, so the driver can see how many liters of gasoline or kilograms of hydrogen are in the auto at any one time.
The small shifter for the auto is on the steering column, where the driver can select Drive, Neutral or Reverse. There is also a Park button on the end of the shifter, which I had fumbled with at first but quickly got used to its unusual location.
The BMW Hydrogen 7 had much better acceleration than I had anticipated and didn’t mind goosing the accelerator a few times to test its response. BMW Hydrogen 7 offered a smooth, quiet ride that one would expect from any BMW plenty of power and responsiveness when in hydrogen mode.
The one criticism that the media, including myself, has been reporting about the Hydrogen 7 automobile is that its liquid hydrogen fuel in conducive to evaporating if the driver lets the auto sit for a couple of weeks time. Mr. Klugescheid said the engineers at BMW were well aware of this issue and were working on solutions involving tank size, positioning and materials used for the super-insulation.
All in all, the BMW Hydrogen 7 offers an excellent ride with plenty of power and comfort. Kudos to BMW for being the first automaker to put a production model hydrogen auto into the hands of consumers. The BMW Hydrogen 7 went into production on November 13, 2006 in Germany and is expected to rollout for lease the first quarter of 2007.