More stories related to 2005 NAIASDETROIT – BMW AG plans to put a limited number of 7-Series bi-fuel cars on the road that can run on hydrogen or gasoline with the flip of a switch, says Tom Purves, chairman and CEO of BMW North America LLC.

The auto maker uses the North American International Auto Show to tout the H2R Hydrogen Record Car that recently set nine land speed records that are being verified. More importantly, it proves BMW’s contention that hydrogen can replace gasoline for conventional internal-combustion engines without foregoing performance.

Armed with that conviction, Purves says the plan is to produce about 100 or so 7-Series hydrogen cars in four or five years – before the end of the lifecycle of the current 7-Series.

The hydrogen-fueled 7-Series cars will be built in Germany and some will be brought to the U.S., Purves says. Whether they will be just for demonstration, or whether they will be sold depends on how well-developed the hydrogen highway is, and whether there are any legislative impediments, he says.

He declines to give any indication of what pricing might be.

“We believe in hydrogen. It is the fuel of the future,” Purves says. By offering the option of running on gasoline, the auto maker hopes to allay vehicle owners’ fears of not being able to always find hydrogen fuel stations.

The hydrogen IC engine is based on the 6L V-12 of the BWM 760i, with output of 282 hp on hydrogen IC engine and a top speed in excess of 186 mph (300 km/h) for the H2R. A larger engine is needed for the same performance with hydrogen, Purves says.

Purves expects the hydrogen 7-Series will have about half the range of a conventional 7-Series, which about 380-400 miles (611-643 km).

The hydrogen would be carried cryogenically in liquid form, which permits larger storage capacity.

The H2R was developed by BMW Forschung und Technik GmbH in 10 months, benefiting from the parallel work being done on the dual-mode 7-Series sedan.