BMW premieres hydrogen-powered car in Dubai

BMW makes Dubai the first stop of a five-city ‘Clean Energy’ World Tour — and argues that hydrogen is not a threat to the oil industry.

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By  Justin Etheridge Published  January 29, 2001

Dubai will welcome BMW's most environmentally friendly car yet, the 750hL, for the first time outside of its German home market. A fleet of ten 750hL cars will be on display at the Burj Al Arab hotel on February 1st and each will run on liquid hydrogen.

Gasoline-powered vehicles are the largest source of air pollution today, accounting for 22% of the world's carbon dioxide emissions. The new engine, however, would produce just a single byproduct: water vapour.

It may seem ironic to some that a hydrogen-powered car should be unveiled in a region so dominated by the production of oil. BMW disagrees. "Only 10% of oil production is used as a fuel for mobility, a fuel for cars," said Robert Bailey-McEwan, managing director, BMW Middle East. "Hydrogen engines will free oil for more important, strategic uses," he added.

Dr Mohammed Bin Fahed, chairman of the Zayed International Prize, echoed that sentiment. "BMW's efforts in developing hydrogen as an alternative clean energy source are highly appreciated by the environmental institutions and organisations worldwide," he said. "After all, the fossil fuel reserves will not last forever and fortunately the United Arab Emirates is becoming less and less dependent on oil."

The Dubai-based Zayed International Prize is supporting this leg of BMW's world tour.

While liquid hydrogen can be manufactured from several processes, including atomic, all result in harmful waste products. Today, however, solar energy can be used to generate an electric current, separating water into hydrogen and oxygen. The entire process, from manufacture to consumption, is environmentally friendly.

"The main cause of global warming is humans burning coal, oil and gasoline," said Dr Mohammed Bin Fahed, chairman of the Zayed International Prize. "If the trend is to be stemmed, it is necessary to switch to clean sources, including those for automobiles."

Ultimately, the challenge will be to build an infrastructure of hydrogen refuelling stations. The hydrogen-powered car, in development since the 1960s, is at last a reality. But it won’t save the planet by itself. Commercial adoption of the hydrogen engine demands a widespread, available fuel supply. And that is the task of respective governments around the world.

The ‘Clean Energy’ world tour will also visit Brussels, Milan, Tokyo and Los Angeles.

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