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Eu Commission Tests Environment-friendly Cars

The European Commission has taken the EU's new push on climate change to heart and is testing an experimental model BMW car that runs on hydrogen, a spokesman said last Tuesday. The move is part of the commission's stirring commitment to cut down carbon dioxide emissions which are said to be the main cause of global warming.

Max Strotmann, the spokesman of the Commission, said that the EU's executive body is trying out the vehicles, provided free of charge by the Bavarian auto manufacturer, for "a few months, six months maximum" to "see if it works." He stressed that the commission had made no commitment to buy any of the new Series 7 BMWs, around 100 of which have been built. It is noteworthy to say that only one hydrogen fuelling station has been built in Brussels.

The BMW Hydrogen 7, based on the chassis of the standard 7-series, is equipped with a powerful combustion engine that is capable of running on hydrogen or gasoline. It also features the BMW master cylinder, a 74-litregasoline tank and an extra hydrogen fuel tank holding up to eight kilograms of liquid hydrogen, stored at -253 degrees Celsius. The vehicle was displayed at the New York International Automobile Show (NYIAS) in April 2007.

A 2007 article in Technology Review reviewing the vehicle has this to say about the car: "In the context of the overall energy economy, a car like the BMW Hydrogen 7 would proba­bly produce far more carbon dioxide emissions than gasoline-powered cars available today. And changing this calculation would take multiple breakthroughs - which study after study has predicted will take decades, if they arrive at all. In fact, the Hydrogen 7 and its hydrogen-fuel-cell cousins are, in many ways, simply flashy distractions produced by automakers who should be taking stronger immediate action to reduce the greenhouse-gas emissions of their cars."

Moreover, the Wall Street Journal concluded: "A more efficient route for car makers would be to focus on high-mileage gasoline-powered vehicles. They are far simpler and less sexy than hydrogen cars, Mr. Talbot says, but for now they stack up as the cleaner option."

Strotmann also said that the commission had previously tested a climate-friendly Saab, which runs on biofuels. The General Motors Corp. also has announced its first BioEthanol concept called the Saab BioPower 100. The vehicle is a Saab 9-5 SportCombi wagon that features a 2.0-liter turbo engine that runs on E100 or 100 percent ethanol. At present, many car manufacturers produce flex-fuel vehicles that run on E85, a mixture of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent regular gasoline. This concept eliminates even that small percent of gas.

The European Parliament said last month that it was looking at ways to cut its own emissions to help contribute, including a possible move to cleaner fleet vehicles. EU leaders pledged in March to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 20 percent by 2020 compared to 1990 levels. The European Parliament said last month that it was looking at ways to cut its own emissions to help contribute, including a possible move to cleaner fleet vehicles.

EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas's work car is a hybrid model Toyota Prius, which has been widely sold around the world, while Commission Vice-President Siim Kallas is "bike crazy" and does not have a car. Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso drives a gas-guzzling four-wheel drive. His reason: "I don't mix my private life and public policy."

About The Author Anthony Fontanelle is a 35-year-old automotive buff who grew up in the Windy City. He does freelance work for an automotive magazine when he is not busy customizing cars in his shop.
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