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BMW's Hydrogen 7 -

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BMW's Hydrogen 7

BMW is developing a hydrogen-powered car. Dave Bean describes its virtues to Robyn Williams.


This transcript was typed from a recording of the program. The ABC cannot guarantee its complete
accuracy because of the possibility of mishearing and occasional difficulty in identifying

Dave Bean: Exactly, it has one internal combustion engine and it can run...yes, a bi-fuel vehicle
and all you need to do is you flip a switch that's located on the steering wheel, it says H2 on it
so you know exactly what it is, and that's all, no other special preparation needs to happen. You
just go from one to the other. And the liquid hydrogen comes in from this side of the engine, the
gasoline comes in from this side. So it's a V12 engine. It's not a prototype vehicle, it's
assembled on the same line, as the other seven series, and the hope is that one day that this will
be as readily available as a gasoline engine. The only real difference here, if you look at the
engine, is the manifold is a little bit bigger to accommodate the hydrogen side, and we've also
built up the hood here, it's what we call our power dome. I'll lower this for you just so
the hood it's a little bigger than a normal seven series but that accommodates the larger manifold.

Bystander: So without the graphics and the paint, your only difference is you notice a bulge in the
hood and the extra filler cap.

Dave Bean: Yes, the extra filler cap. There are some differences, and why don't we walk around the
car and I'll point that out to you. You're right, we've got a badge here on both sides that say
'hydrogen' but we do have other vehicles for some of our celebrities who don't want to be pointed
at, let's say, when they're driving around in public. But if you take a look on top you'll notice
something very different here, you'll notice a little disc. This is actually a great safety
feature. In the event that there would be a hydrogen leak or too much pressure arising in the tank,
the car is engineered to kind of run off the extra hydrogen, and that would come through in gaseous
form through the top there. That's one of the ways that it would happen. In the event that the
pressure was so great the little disc in the middle would actually pop off. I've never seen that
happen but I know that it can happen.

The other difference, if you got down here, this is what we call our boil-off management system or
BMS. These are not exhaust pipes, those are over there, but because hydrogen is always evaporating
in liquid form and if you allow the gas to keep evaporating inside the tank and if you didn't have
a way for that gas to escape, the hydrogen tank could be a bit of a problem. So they've built in
this boil-off management system, and what happens is...let's say the car is stationary for 17
hours, the boil-off management system automatically kicks in, brings air in through the hydrogen
tank and then creates a vacuum. The gaseous hydrogen then comes out of the other side, that other
expulsion area down there, in the form of water droplets, and that's as much emission as you would

Robyn Williams: Your name is Dave Bean and you're the person from BMW who is showing this car
around. Are you an engineer yourself?

Dave Bean: I'm not an engineer, no, but I work with many, many skilled and wonderful engineers.

Robyn Williams: How many of these cars are out there in the world?

Dave Bean: There are 100 of these vehicles that have been manufactured in the world, and at the
present time we have 25 here in the US.

Robyn Williams: Who's running them?

Dave Bean: We've had involved in the program Jay Leno, Julia Louis-Dreyfus of Seinfeld fame,
currently Edward Norton has one of our vehicles, Brad Pitt was a recipient, Ashton Kutcher had one
of our vehicles up until very recently. We've had both the producer and director of An Inconvenient
Truth, the Al Gore film, also taking the car on loan as well. This next week I'll be delivering a
vehicle to Jason Bateman who's in the film Juno right now. Then we have...Leonardo DiCaprio will be
a recipient, George Clooney.

Robyn Williams: My name is Robyn Williams, can I have one?

Dave Bean: If it was up to me you would have one.

Robyn Williams: That's very kind. And what's been their reaction to driving it?

Dave Bean: The reaction has been almost's been unparalleled pleasure and success and
they love it. What they love is that one of the reasons why BMW has put the hydrogen capability
into its seven series is because it realises that there's a certain level of customer, a certain
buyer of a luxury vehicle that doesn't want to sacrifice that kind of luxury but yet they'd like to
do something environmentally conscious as well. With a vehicle like this, the Hydrogen 7, you are
absolutely able to keep the luxury that you want, keep the engineering that BMW is famous for and
do something environmentally conscious and improve things. The people that I've mentioned to you
and the others that will receive the vehicle are all very environmentally cognisant people.

Robyn Williams: Where do they get the hydrogen from?

Dave Bean: Unfortunately the down-side is that there is only one place in Southern California to
get liquid hydrogen and that's at the BMW Test and Engineering facility in Oxnard, but the reason
why we have this program is to get this dialogue started. We've been saying that we feel like we're
in the pioneering process of this. If we can get this vehicle seen at events like this here at

Robyn Williams: This is a Young Presidents event, isn't it?

Dave Bean: Yes, I believe so. If we can get this vehicle seen here by people who care about the
environment and if we can get the vehicle seen and talked about by our high-profile celebrity
customers then that will start the dialogue and create the demand and maybe it will start opening
up some eyes of people who can create the infrastructure and can start putting in liquid hydrogen
as readily available as gasoline. Once that happens then it would make sense to start manufacturing
this vehicle en masse and put it in the retail showrooms. So right now the liquid hydrogen is not
available. Again, hopefully that will happen in the not too distant future.

Robyn Williams: Indeed, we've had some buses in Perth in Western Australia a couple of years back
running on hydrogen and that's been fairly successful. So there are vehicles around which do run
which can be purchased, I suppose.

Dave Bean: Yes, there are, and mostly, as you said, they're found in city fleets and specialised
vehicles like that, but what we're trying to do is to demonstrate that you and I could have a
vehicle like this, we can keep the luxury that we like and we can be environmentally responsible.

Robyn Williams: But it would go presumably, hydrogen, for ordinary cars as well?

Dave Bean: No doubt about it. BMW has worked in conjunction with General Motors and Honda in other
vehicle categories and demonstrated in testing that it can be done in all vehicle categories. So
again, right now it doesn't make sense to bring out too many models where you'd have liquid
hydrogen because the infrastructure isn't there. So it's kind of like that saying; the journey of a
thousand miles begins with that one step. So as far as BMW is concerned this is that one step.

Robyn Williams: Two onlookers...may I ask you a couple of questions? Are you a Young President?

Onlooker 1: No, we're poor college students actually at Caltech.

Robyn Williams: I see. And you?

Onlooker 2: Same, college student.

Robyn Williams: What subject?

Onlooker 2: Mechanical engineering.

Robyn Williams: And you?

Onlooker 1: I'm electrical engineering.

Robyn Williams: And your reaction to this car?

Onlooker 1: It's a pretty cool car.

Onlooker 2: It's great, it's taking a look at the future.

Robyn Williams: Compared to the Prius, which of course is a hybrid which is an electric battery
motor combined with standard petrol, or gas as you call it would you compare them?

Onlooker 1: I think this is a good step in the direction to finally establishing a full hydrogen
car that is purely emission-free in terms of carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide and other nitrous
compounds, whereas I still think with the hybrids it's kind of a compromise where a lot of
companies are basically just trying to get a little increased fuel efficiency for the current,
where it looks like these guys are really looking for the future.

Onlooker 2: This is going to be a great way to create a hydrogen distribution infrastructure. What
they've done is they've taken a standard V12 engine and they've modified it to accept a different
type of fuel. So while the fuel cell version might not be ready yet, everybody else can say, oh
wait, there's a car that uses hydrogen, we can make plants, get the gasoline distribution centres
supporting hydrogen too, and then sooner or later there is a fuel cell and that will go even
farther on the same amount of hydrogen. So it's a great step forward.

Robyn Williams: Where are you from?

Onlooker 1: I was born in Los Angeles, originally from India.

Robyn Williams: And you?

Onlooker 2: I'm from New York.

Robyn Williams: A walk around a BMW run on hydrogen. Other cars can do it, as you've just heard,
not a straightforward option though, yet.