Yesterday, I had the fortune to talk with BMW spokesman Andreas Klugescheid about the 8-week testing program of the BMW Hydrogen 7 by NASA officials. According to Mr. Klugescheid, NASA officials from upper management to mid-level employees were afforded the ability to drive one of the four BMW Hydrogen 7’s that were available and put them through their paces.
BMW tallied about 250 different drivers put on 6,500 miles during the testing period. Besides having technicians and a mobile refueling station on the scene, rumor has it that NASA also used some hydrogen from their last Space Shuttle mission to refuel the BMW Hydrogen 7. Mr. Klugescheid was not able to confirm this rumor, however.
Even though the Endeavour Space Shuttle astronauts were not available to drive the hydrogen auto, BMW gave the rest of the employees at the Kennedy Space Center a chance to drive the vehicles. There was a building-by-building put out in one of the NASA newsletters about the opportunity.
I asked Andreas Klugescheid what impressed the NASA employees most about the BMW Hydrogen 7 and he said, “That the auto is so normal, really.”
I also asked Mr. Klugescheid how NASA people differ from the general public in thinking about hydrogen as fuel. He replied, “At NASA, people are thinking longer term than what’s just around the corner. They have a different concept of time-frames.” He went on to say, “Engineers worldwide have common ground when it comes to hydrogen technology. At NASA, they are an excited and receptive audience.”
I have to hand it to BMW that they’ve done an excellent job in connecting the dots between the Hydrogen 7 luxury automobile and the NASA Space Shuttle, which is also fueled by liquid hydrogen. After the photograph was taken of the BMW Hydrogen 7 in the foreground with the Space Shuttle, the Endeavour made a successful launch into space on Wednesday, August 8, 2007 at 6:36 pm EDT.
While the launch of the Space Shuttle is an abrupt and thundering experience, the launch of the BMW Hydrogen 7 has been a much more subtle road trip of endurance and persistence from coast to coast, touting the advantages of hydrogen vehicles and changing minds slowly about the perception of hydrogen as fuel.