Mercedes' first production fuel-cell vehicle, the B-class F-cell, has just been launched. A total of 200 models will be produced later this year and will be sent to customers in the US and Europe who have leased it in early 2010.
Claimed to have the same level of performance as a 2.0-liter petrol car, the hydrogen-electric hybrid car produces 134bhp and 214lb ft of torque. Its zero-emission powertrain can manage the equivalent of 86.6mpg on the combined cycle. The hybrid car's range is approximately 250 miles.
Refueling the car with hydrogen is not a bother since it takes only three minutes. By comparison, a 1.8-liter petrol B-class produces 114bhp and 114lb ft of torque in B180 BlueEfficiency SE version.
No 2.0-litre petrol model is available. One of the key problems with existing fuel-cell vehicles is their inability to perform cold starts. Mercedes has been successful in addressing this weakness.
The Mercedes-Benz B-Class F-cell can start in temperatures as low as minus 25 degrees Celsius. Its rival, the Honda FCX Clarity, claims to start from minus 30 degrees Celsius.
B-Class F-cell has a 35kw lithium-ion battery used to store any power wasted under acceleration, recover energy lost under braking and provide back-up power to the electric motor.
Interior and boot space are both unaffected by the addition of the F-cell powertrain. Since the drive components are stored in the floor, the boot's capacity of 416 liters is the same as a regular B-class. Safety is also unaffected with the system undergoing 30 crash tests prior to production.