Mercedes-Benz wants to prove that the technology that underpins its B-Klasse F-Cell -- the world’s first fuel cell car -- is reliable enough to deserve going into mass production but unfortunately, its publicity stunt had an accident.
On Jan. 30 of this year, three Mercedes-Benz B-Class F-Cell models set off from Germany for a drive around the world. The trip will be through 30,000 kilometers (about 18,700 miles) in around 125 estimated days.
On May 11, the “Number 3” car met an accident in Kazakhstan and won’t be able to complete the trip. No one was injured and the car is far from being a write-off but there’s no possibility for local repairs.
The carmaker is thinking about repairing the car at the next scheduled stop or maybe replacing it with a spare one. The F-Cell uses a new generation fuel cell system that’s based on the regular B-Class hatch.
In this system, a current for the electric motor (its only by-product) results from the reaction of gaseous hydrogen and atmospheric oxygen at 700 bar.
Just like conventional gas-electric hybrids, the fuel-cell car is equipped with a lithium-ion battery with an output of 35 kW and a capacity of 1.4 kWh to increase power and recover braking energy.
Its electric motor has an output of 100 kW or 136hp and a maximum torque of 290 Nm or 214 lb-ft, enabling the B-Klasse F-Cell to achieve a maximum speed of 170km/h (105 mph).
With the new B-Class F-Cell, Mercedes-Benz is set to produce its first series of fuel cell automobiles. This is a green technology electric car with performance capabilities surpassing any 2.0-litre petrol car while being totally practical for regular driving. The car’s drive system is a zero-emission system with a New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) diesel consumption of 3.3 litres per 100 kilometres. Production of car units will begin in the latter part of 2009. A modest batch of about 200 cars will be available in select European and US markets by the start of 2010.
The Mercedes-Benz B-Class F-Cell may feature new green technology but it still delivers the coveted brand’s signature features, including supreme levels of comfort, safety, spaciousness and cargo capacity. The highly regarded Mercedes-Benz drivability can also be expected.
Indeed, its electric motor provides up to 100 kW/136hp and 290 Nm torque even from the initial rotation. This means that the B-Class F-Cell offers more dynamic responsiveness than any 2.0-litre petrol car, as seen in its ability to start outstandingly. However, even with such high performance capabilities, the zero-emission fuel cell drive uses up only an equivalent amount of 3.3 litres of diesel for every 100 kilometres (NEDC). Because of its incredible 400 kilometre range and fast three-minute refuelling time, zero local emission is assured even over long distances.
Dr. Thomas Weber, a member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG, which manages Mercedes-Benz Cars’ Group Research and Development, said that 2009 is when the company breaks ground to produce sustainable automotive technologies. He proudly added that the Mercedes-Benz B-Class F-Cell is “the world’s first fuel cell powered automobile” that will undergo series production.
The automobile’s core is the latest version of the compact, high-output fuel cell system that makes use of the reaction of hydrogen and atmospheric oxygen gases at 700 bar to produce electricity for the motor. This fuel cell system is very much capable of a cold-start even at such low temperatures as minus 25 degrees Celsius. The drive system is a complete redesign of the one on the 2004 F-Cell A-Class, which already showed excellent output, torque, range, dependability, starting ability and comfort. However, the Mercedes-Benz B-Class F-Cell can now ensure a better driving experience with everyday practicality but with Mercedes luxury, and most importantly, no local emissions.
Like other combustion-engine hybrids, the B-Class F-Cell utilises a lithium-ion battery with a 1.4 kWh capacity that outputs 35 kW to enhance power and recoup braking energy. Lithium-ion batteries are preferable over conventional batteries because of their smaller sizes, better performance, excellent recharging efficiency and durability.
Design-wise, the Mercedes-Benz B-Class F-Cell is built upon a unique sandwich floor configuration adapted from the Mercedes-Benz A-Class and B-Class. This construction style allows the drive components to be set in the sandwich floor. This protects them and makes them less intrusive, resulting in greater internal space and an increased boot capacity of 416 litres.
The Mercedes-Benz B-Class F-Cell also stands up to other vehicles in terms of equipment. The most noticeable features include the bonamite silver finish and distinctively exclusive lightweight alloy 10-spoke wheels. Inside, the heated seats are upholstered with leather, and there is also automatic climate control and the COMAND system. Taken with the other features, supreme comfort is definitely provided to the driver and passengers.