What is it?
Ostensibly, a BMW 7-series – a 760iL, specifically – engineered to run on either ordinary unleaded petrol or liquefied hydrogen. When burning the latter, it emits only water vapour and trace amounts of nitrogen dioxide and harmful particulates. That, says BMW, makes it the world’s first super-low-emissions luxury vehicle, and a totally sustainable means of personal transport.
So what have Munich’s engineers done to this symbol of conspicuous consumption to turn it into a potential climate-saver? Well, surprisingly little. Externally, the Hydrogen 7 is identical to a long-wheelbase 7-series but for its 'Hydrogen' badging and slightly tweaked rear valance styling. Under the bonnet is where you’d expect most of the hard work to have been done, but actually BMW hasn’t had to do that much to its 6.0-litre V12 to make it accept hydrogen as readily as it does unleaded. It runs a slightly lower compression ratio than the standard V12, has a hydrogen injection system and an aluminium-lined induction system specifically designed to deal with the fuel. Otherwise it’s unchanged, and knocks out a steady, if slightly underwhelming 256bhp whether it’s running on petrol or hydrogen.
Where you won’t fail to identify this Seven from an ordinary 760iL, however, is when lifting the bootlid. This is where BMW has accommodated the 165-litre aluminium tank necessary to store the liquid hydrogen for the engine, and that gives the car a 120-mile hydrogen range, on top of its 300-mile petrol range.