BMW debuts liquid hydrogen luxury car at the LA Auto Show

Los Angeles (CA) - BMW offered a first public view on its first limited production hydrogen-powered car, the Hydrogen 7. Officially introduced at the currently held Los Angeles Auto Show, the luxury sedan uses liquid hydrogen and can switch to gasoline power with a push of a button. During a media only press conference at the show, BMW officials told reporters that "you can't tell the difference" when switching to gasoline.

The Hydrogen 7 is powered by a 260 hp 12-cylinder engine that can accelerate the 6370 lbs car to 62.1 mph in about 9.5 seconds. Top speed is 143 mph and the hydrogen cruising range is about 125 miles. The gasoline tank provides 300 miles after that. The regular, only gasoline-powered 12-cylinder 760i is rated at 438 hp.

While the performance figures are certainly decent for a "green" vehicle, most people will probably be buying the car for the reduced emissions. The liquid hydrogen burns cleanly and only produces water vapor as exhaust.

The Hydrogen 7 does have some serious drawbacks however. Most of the liquid hydrogen in the insulated tank will evaporate after a week and "owners" will not be able to keep the car in an enclosed garage. BMW believes the fuel tanks are safe indoors, but is playing it safe.

Also, the Hydrogen 7 already has been criticized as being "not as green as it seems." German magazine reported that the car will be delivering about 17 mpg on gasoline and only 4.8 mpg on hydrogen. "In other words, BMW has created an energy-guzzling engine that only seems to be environmentally friendly - a farcical ecomobile whose only true merit is that of illustrating the cardinal dilemma of a possible hydrogen-based economy," wrote. Count in the fact that hydrogen is somewhat short in supply and that its production needs quite some energy and the Hydrogen isn't as nice to nature as it appears at first look - at least for now.

Gasoline stations are all over the place, but good luck in finding a hydrogen filling station. Currently there are only a handful of hydrogen filling stations in the United States, but BMW presumably will loan you a mobile filling station if you are lucky enough to test drive the car.

You won't be able to buy the car anytime soon however because BMW will only let a select few test the vehicle in the next year and the cars will remain the property of BMW. Beginning in March, BMW will be handing the car to about 100 celebrities. Names of those upcoming Hydrogen 7 drivers have not been revealed.