Today, BMW announced the introduction of its new Hydrogen 7 luxury sedan, a sleek, comfy, and instantly antiquated vehicle in which drivers can feel both static and regressive. The Hydrogen 7's internal combustion engine (not a fuel cell) can run on either hydrogen or gasoline, is enormous (260 hp 12-cylinder), and offers the driver 0-62 in 9.5 seconds, barely better than the Prius' four cylinders. The notion of producing an internal combustion engine (ICE) with hundreds of moving parts, that runs on a substance that is not an energy source but an energy carrier, does next to nothing to step away from the auto industry's self-destructive model and climate change contribution, is well summed up in the press release: "paving the way into the future". Companies that choose to ignore this third wave of electric transportation solutions will do so at their own peril and continue to pave over their own future prospects, as well as ours. Cars like the Tesla and a good many others are already opening the gates for a new era of cars, and cheap, powerful, fast-charging batteries, mostly made in China, will make this shift much faster than most would imagine. Plug-in hybrids are an ideal gateway technology, and they themselves already far surpass ICE hydrogen in almost every respect.Stated in BMW's Hydrogen 7 press release: "Together with clean performance diesel cars and the technologically advanced hybrid systems the BMW Group has a clear strategy for sustainable mobility with hydrogen as the ultimate goal." Mother company to Mini, BMW should take a cue from the British engineering firm that recently outfitted a Mini with in-wheel electric motors and got 0-60 in four seconds. I'm not sure how BMW could manage to make a 12-cylinder car so slow, but that is not even the point. It is time for us to stop being impressed by hydrogen. Yes, hydrogen vehicles release only water vapor and heat, but the hydrogen "consumed" is only a carrier for the energy that was input when the hydrogen was prepared. Proponents of course urge that this energy will come from renewable sources, and it very well may, but this does not excuse the huge amounts of energy lost during electrolysis and other processes. Satisfying the need for a hydrogen fueling infrastructure is also a massive undertaking, but seems most absurd when juxtaposed to the already existing infrastructure for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, the infrastructure that is already connected to your own house.
The Hydrogen 7, which will be on the road in the hands of selected buyers by 2007, essentially just depicts how the world's auto industry is sluggish to change and seemingly unable to undergo the kinds of radical but feasible shifts that befit the magnitude of the crisis on our horizon.
(Sorry for the op-ed. Please feel free to share your comments.)