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Is this the true ultimate driving machine?
December 4, 2006 9:38 AM   Subscribe

Is this BMW version what some were waiting for? I've heard about complaints on hybrid performance. BMW claims to be the best in performance. But did they miss the boat?
posted by wiggles (37 comments total)

 
I ain't gettin' in no German vehicle that has anything to do with hydrogen.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:42 AM on December 4, 2006 [3 favorites]


When you use a 7-series hybrid to go from the private Boeing 747 to your 100+ft yacht (with private helicopter and submarine, snatch) ... you aren't exactly the most environmentally conscious of consumers.
posted by geoff. at 9:45 AM on December 4, 2006


When BMW introduces something to their cars you better be sure that they tested that and it is reliable. My guess is that they introduced it to the 7 series because there it is the only place where they can recoup the price for the technology;
posted by vranghel at 9:59 AM on December 4, 2006


The 7 series has all sorts of wacky features that never get near a car normal people buy.
posted by smackfu at 10:08 AM on December 4, 2006


Can we link to the actual BMW website instead of Engadget's regurgitation of Gizmag's republishing of a BMW press release?
posted by cillit bang at 10:10 AM on December 4, 2006


A small problem noted in Wired's road test of the car:

The liquid hydrogen in the 8-kilogram fuel tank begins to boil after 17 hours if the car remains parked. The tank empties completely after 10 to 12 days.
posted by crumbly at 10:15 AM on December 4, 2006


7 Series is the maker's flagship line. People who can afford flagship models don't have to worry about the cost of anything.

It probably would have been better to introduce the technology into a 3 Series. While they might have had to subsidize the technology in hybrid purchases, "breaking even", it would have given BMW the experience needed to work out kinks in mass production, so that they can make a hybrid that can compete with Toyota's entry-level luxury hybrid lines.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:15 AM on December 4, 2006


Hasn't hydrogen been shown not to be a workable alternative fuel (in terms of production and distribution)?
posted by doctor_negative at 10:42 AM on December 4, 2006


doctor_negative writes "Hasn't hydrogen been shown not to be a workable alternative fuel (in terms of production and distribution)?"

Yes. In the article on their site, BMW admits "Of course this is all a big waste of time. Hydrogen has been shown not to be a workable alternative fuel (in terms of production and distribution). But hey, whatever."
posted by mullingitover at 11:10 AM on December 4, 2006


wiggles: "I've heard about complaints on hybrid performance. BMW claims to be the best in performance. But did they miss the boat?"

If by "miss the boat" you mean "introduce a car that can take either hydrogen or gasoline fuel later than the vast majority of their competitors", then, no, I don't think they missed the boat, since none of their competitors have done any such thing.
posted by Plutor at 11:25 AM on December 4, 2006


This isn't a hybrid. It's a dual-fuel car. It has a reasonably normal internal-combustion engine that can run on gas or hydrogen. A hybrid has two motors—gas (or whatever) and electric.
posted by adamrice at 11:36 AM on December 4, 2006


I was wondering whether this car burns hydrogen or creates electricity via a fuel cell. The BMW page that cilit bang linked to is ambiguous:
Depending on the type of drive system used, the energy stored in hydrogen can be converted into two forms of energy for driving a car: either through a conventional combustion engine serving to convert this energy directly into drive power or through so-called "cold" combustion in a fuel cell generating electrical energy. BMW uses both of these options, focusing on the combustion engine for the actual process of driving a vehicle. The combustion power unit, given the sum total of its features, still offers the greatest number of benefits. At the same time BMW sees the fuel cell as a source of energy supplying electric power to the on-board network in lieu of a conventional alternator and offering brand-new options in air conditioning the car as well as other comfort functions.
posted by tippiedog at 11:39 AM on December 4, 2006


"When BMW introduces something to their cars you better be sure that they tested that and it is reliable."

I know BMW's are pricey and they handle well, I hadn't heard that they're reliable. Is that a new feature they are including?
posted by lazymonster at 11:41 AM on December 4, 2006


I want a car powered by Ninjas. THAT would be awesome.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:53 AM on December 4, 2006


This car is energy-ineffcient and expensive. I'm guessing it will serve as customer-based field test for the technology. If it works, I'd imagine they'll gradually both migrate it to rest of their lineup, as well as refine the operating process. And hopefully the costs would follow most technologies, in that they tend to get less pricey and thus more widespread after establishing their functional value for their given market.
posted by ninjew at 11:57 AM on December 4, 2006


It probably would have been better to introduce the technology into a 3 Series. While they might have had to subsidize the technology in hybrid purchases, "breaking even", it would have given BMW the experience needed to work out kinks in mass production, so that they can make a hybrid that can compete with Toyota's entry-level luxury hybrid lines.

Woah, woah. This has nothing to do with Toyota's gas-electric hybrid systems. This is a gas/hydrogen system.

The liquid hydrogen in the 8-kilogram fuel tank begins to boil after 17 hours if the car remains parked. The tank empties completely after 10 to 12 days.

So? No environmental damage, no polution, and it's not like we're going to run out of hydrogen. Just use a little gas to get to the hydrogen station.

This isn't a hybrid. It's a dual-fuel car. It has a reasonably normal internal-combustion engine that can run on gas or hydrogen. A hybrid has two motors—gas (or whatever) and electric.

"Hybrid" just means a combination of two things. This is just a diffrent kind of hybrid.

I was wondering whether this car burns hydrogen or creates electricity via a fuel cell. The BMW page that cilit bang linked to is ambiguous:

It sounds like they do both (for some reason) They use hydrogen to fuel the IC engine, and they have a fuel cell for the electrical system. They also seem to use the liquid hydrogen to cool the car as well.
posted by delmoi at 12:00 PM on December 4, 2006


Delmoi—I was waiting for someone to make the humpty-dumpty argument. Thank you for obliging, and for the English lesson. I know what "hybrid" in the general sense means. When applied to cars, it has a specific meaning—two separate motors, one being electric—which this BMW does not fit.

The fact that it can run electrical accessories through a fuel cell (which I missed before) does, however, mean this could be classified as a "mild hybrid" w.
posted by adamrice at 12:54 PM on December 4, 2006


This is the worst idea to come out of Germany in a long time.
posted by Mister_A at 1:24 PM on December 4, 2006


I have a question (in lieu of going to AxMe);
What is the price of fueling a car with Hydrogen. Will it be cheaper than gas?
posted by thekorruptor at 2:16 PM on December 4, 2006


adamrice, I'm sorry, but you're wrong. You are thinking of a gas/electric hybrid.

"Hybrid" is a general term. When applied to cars, it remains general, regardless of what the goons on wikipedia may say. In fact, if you look at the bottom of the wikipedia page, you will see other hybrid types including Pneumatic Hybrids and Hydraulic Hybrids.
posted by hellphish at 2:25 PM on December 4, 2006


thekorruptor: No. Mile for mile, the hydrogen would be at least as expensive, possibly quite a bit more (based on this article).

Hydrogen's attraction is that it can be used as an intermediate form of stored power that is harvested by other means—wind, solar, gerbils on wheels—which is used to decompose water into H2 and O2. This will come in handy when we run out of gas. Another attraction is that burning it doesn't release any CO2—or anything other than water.

Presumably once the infrastructure for H2 production and distribution gets built out, the price will drop.
posted by adamrice at 2:26 PM on December 4, 2006


BMW has been running hydrogen-fuelled internal combustion engine prototypes for ages. More precisely, since 1979.
It does seem quite pointless to me, as this article points out (rather sarcastically).
posted by Skeptic at 2:49 PM on December 4, 2006


Hydrogen internal combustion engines have no future. You get all the hassle of trying to store hydrogen, and none of the regenerative-braking and awesome acceleration of an electric powertrain. Plus burning hydrogen in air produces NOx -> ie smog. A lot of money was spent researching hydrogen IC engines in the early eighties. I'm surprised some companies are still at it.
posted by Popular Ethics at 3:44 PM on December 4, 2006


Eh, call me when BMW Motorrad release a hydrogen motorcycle. Oh, and when there's a way to make hydrogen (enough to be useful on a global scale) that doesn't involve burning fossil fuels or petroleum products.
posted by Eideteker at 4:27 PM on December 4, 2006


Woah, woah. This has nothing to do with Toyota's gas-electric hybrid systems. This is a gas/hydrogen system.

Explain to the marketing department, or 95% of the market looking to buy a Hybrid vehicle.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:05 PM on December 4, 2006


Oh, and when there's a way to make hydrogen (enough to be useful on a global scale) that doesn't involve burning fossil fuels or petroleum products.

How about nuclear?
posted by b1tr0t at 5:23 PM on December 4, 2006


"Can we link to the actual BMW website instead of Engadget's regurgitation of Gizmag's republishing of a BMW press release?"

I'm sorry, this was my first post. Thanks for the feedback; I should have known better.
posted by wiggles at 6:09 AM on December 5, 2006


I don't think they missed the boat, since none of their competitors have done any such thing.

I don't think they did either. I just wanted to have some discussion on BMW's progress.
posted by wiggles at 6:11 AM on December 5, 2006


When BMW introduces something to their cars you better be sure that they tested that and it is reliable.

Ha ha ho ha ho [snort/] [sniffle/]....

Seriously: That was a joke, right? BMWs haven't been worth a runny crap in years.

This is, after all, the company that is steadily migrating its car line to a design that requires that every higher function be performed by manipulating a single 5-way pointing device mounted on the dash. That wonderful "feature" got implemented not only on BMWs, but also on their Audi counterparts. (Yes, Audi and BMW are subsidiaries of the same parent company, Volkswagen, and yes, they share components, regardless of BMW's frequent insinuations to the contrary.)

This "feature" is in fact working its way down from the high-end lines to the low-end lines. BMW and Audi have millions and millions -- probably a hundred million or more, considering the transformation in their product lines -- tied up in this piece of crap "design". To get there, it had to go through god only knows how many gate reviews and even have been subjected to user tests. All of this happened, of course, in a bizarro world where making things harder to do and forcing the driver to take his/her attention from the road (while presumably weaving in and out of traffic at 95 mph as high-end BMW and Audi drivers are wont to do) are all good things. Because, hey, it passed the gate reviews, the usability tests presumably didn't demonstrate what a painfully and obviously ridiculous idea it was, and the damn thing is in production.

It's a veritable case study in how it's possible for a monumentally stupid design to succeed. There's got to be a lesson for evolutionary biology in this, somewhere.
Point being, if BMW can stick with the iDrive, I don't see why we should expect anything they ever do to be worth paying attention to.
posted by lodurr at 10:27 AM on December 5, 2006


BMW is not owned by Volkswagen, regardless of Lodurr's insinuations to the contrary.

In fact, BMW and VW got into a bizarre tussle in the late 90s over the ownership of Rolls Royce, which BMW wanted (and Rolls wanted BMW to wind up owning it), but VW wound up with some of Rolls' assets through various forms of financial prestidigitation. Eventually BMW and VW hashed things out.

As far as I know, Audi's (or any VW product) don't have anything like the notorious BMW I-drive.
posted by adamrice at 12:10 PM on December 5, 2006


Not only is lodurr wrong about the VW-BMW relationship, but the iDrive control is located on the center console, not the dash.

BMW and Rolls had a partnership for building jet engines. BMW had some rights to the Rolls name which they expanded as VW purchased Rolls and Bentley. VW ended up with everything but the Rolls brand. BMW now makes Rolls-Royce cars, VW makes Bentleys, and Mercedes is stuck with Maybach, a brand they resurected.

Incidentally, both BMW and VW-Audi group are family run companies. Over 30% of BMW is owned by the Quandt family. All of Porsche's voting shares are controlled by the porsche family. Porsche owns around 20% of the VW-Audi group. Porsche family members hold senior management positions in the VW-Audi group.
posted by b1tr0t at 1:54 PM on December 5, 2006


... center console ...

Doesn't that kind of make it -- you know -- worse?

Anyway, that's splitting hairs. I knew where it was located when I wrote "dash". To me, the "center console" is part of the "dashboard." As is the glove box.

If I'm wrong about the financial and mechanical relationships between Porsche/Audi/BMW and Volkswagen (which, after all, repurposes Audi and Porsche designs for its high end), I apologize, but that doesn't change the substance of my note: That the iDrive is an insanely stupid idea, that BMW has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in it, and that that very probably betrays a culture of blinkered technophilia that's liable to produce crappy engineering across the board.
posted by lodurr at 5:46 AM on December 6, 2006


Hundreds of millions of dollars?


...... on a scroll wheel?
posted by hellphish at 8:26 PM on December 6, 2006


After BMW released iDrive, Audi resonded with MMI. MMI has generally received positive review, while iDrive has not.

In both cases, the control unit is a multi-function controller. iDrive works like a joystick, a scroll wheel and a mouse button. Both iDrive and MMI place the control whel under the driver's right hand (in a LHD car) where it is convenient and easy to use. The big difference between the two systems is that BMW apparently buried a lot of useful functions deep in the iDrive menu structure, while Audi added a few physical buttons in addition to the conrol wheel.

I havn't used either system, but it sounds like Audi is on the right track, and BMW may have fixed things up in the iDrive introduced on the 5- and 6- series cars (released after the flagship 7-series' iDrive). The big luxury cars have a silly number of features and functions*. Without iDrive or MMI, they would need a full keyboard of buttons to control them all. iDrive and MMI are both remarkably similar to the iPod (they scroll, they click, and can be operated with one hand). A full keyboard would have been insanely stupid. iDrive was a good first try.

*Mercedes, for example, has offered fart suckers on the current and previous S-Class. Perfect for those after-burrito drives when one of the guys up front rips a loud one and acts all smug about it. Fortunately they work really well.
posted by b1tr0t at 9:39 PM on December 6, 2006


Photos of iDrive and MMI, the two control-wheel system. Mercedes' COMMAND is just GPS NAV and a stereo bundled into one system. It isn't very good and provides a decent demonstration of why things like iDrive and MMI are needed.
posted by b1tr0t at 9:43 PM on December 6, 2006


... why things like iDrive and MMI are needed.

... and why is that, again? Oh, right -- the 'increasing complexity' of automotive controls. Which we remedy by introducing a complex controller.

You want to see good automotive ergonomics? Sit behind the wheel of a (non-Prius) Toyota or a Suzuki, or a c. 1988 Subaru. Nothing flashy, but it's abundantly clear how to do everything you need to do, and you can do much of it without having your hands leave the steering wheel. You don't have to spend 8 hours in class [BMW was giving owners 8 hours of training when they first started selling it] to use the car.

It wasn't broken. The only reason they wanted to "fix" it was to be cool. I suppose that's a valid consideration considering their market, but I personally can't see the wisdom in turning every car in your lineup into an Edsel.

If Audi's device 'gets more positive reviews', that's not saying much. I've yet to see a single positive review of iDrive -- most, in fact, are scornful and scathing. And 'adding a few buttons' really doesn't do anything so much as illustrate that the damn thing wasn't necessary in the first place.

Here's the bottom line, for me: It doesn't save money; it increases user frustration; it makes the car less safe by taking the driver's attention away from the road (and increaseing driver frustration). Any one of these would be a great reason not to do it, yet they did it.

What fascinates me is why. I don't accept the tired old "if they spent money on it they must know what they're doing" crap. Ford spent money on the Edsel. GM spent money on the Cadillac 8-6-4. NASA spent money on the shuttle. The US gov't spent money on the Iraq war. Do any of these things make more sense when you think about how much money was spent on them?
posted by lodurr at 5:09 AM on December 7, 2006


Regarding my "hundreds of millions of dollars" comment: BMW will have a specific R&D number that they're willing to cite for iDrive. That won't be "hundreds of millions of dollars." But they've installed the monstrosity on every car in their lineup. They're gambling on it with all their revenue for however long they keep playing.

So, yeah, "hundreds of millions" might have been a little low.
posted by lodurr at 5:10 AM on December 7, 2006


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