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How the BMW H2R Works

        Auto | Concept Cars

A Hydrogen-Fueled Car
The H2R's hydrogen combustion engine produces record speeds on clean-burning fuel.
The H2R's hydrogen combustion engine produces record speeds on clean-burning fuel.
Photo courtesy BMW AG, Munich, Germany

The use of hydrogen as a fuel in motor vehicles offers several advantages over traditional fossil fuels:

  • There exists an unlimited supply of hydrogen -- hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe and the tenth most abundant element on Earth.
  • Hydrogen is renewable -- When hydrogen reacts with oxygen, the by-product is water (H2O), which can then be hydrolyzed (broken up into its component parts) to yield more hydrogen.
  • Hydrogen is clean-burning -- Unlike the burning of fossil fuels, hydrogen combustion does not produce any destructive environmental pollutants.
  • Hydrogen weighs less and generates more power than hydrocarbon-based fuels.
  • Hydrogen burns faster (and at a lower temperature) than conventional gasoline.
Hydrogen combustion engine in the H2R
Hydrogen combustion engine in the H2R
Photo courtesy BMW AG, Munich, Germany Photo courtesy BMW AG, Munich, Germany
Hydrogen combustion engine in the H2R
Hydrogen combustion engine in the H2R
Photo courtesy BMW AG, Munich, Germany Photo courtesy BMW AG, Munich, Germany

But carmakers and the general public have yet to declare hydrogen power safe for consumer use. To learn more about the use of hydrogen as a fuel source and why you still can't buy a hydrogen car, see How the Hydrogen Economy Works.

In addition to running on hydrogen instead of fossil fuels, the internal components of the H2R's engine are unique in two significant ways: the hydrogen-injection valve and the materials used for the combustion chambers. In the H2R, the injection valves have been integrated into the intake manifolds, as opposed to injecting fuel directly into the combustion chambers.

Liquid hydrogen does not lubricate the way gasoline does, so the H2R uses altered valve seat rings that compensate for this. To maximize power and efficiency, hydrogen is injected into the intake manifold as late as possible, so the injection valves have been redesigned, as well.

In the next section, we'll look at the H2R fuel tank and how it gets refilled.


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