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The Mercedes Benz Hydrogen-powered GLC F-Cell Now Available in Europe

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【Summary】Mercedes Benz has announced that its new GLC F-Cell, the company’s first hydrogen powered vehicle, is available for customers to lease in Europe. Drivers in Germany can now lease the GLC for 799 euros ($917) a month.

FutureCar Staff    Oct 15, 2018 4:34 PM PT
The Mercedes Benz Hydrogen-powered GLC F-Cell Now Available in Europe
author: FutureCar Staff    

Mercedes Benz has announced that its new GLC F-Cell, the company's first hydrogen powered vehicle, is available for customers to lease in Europe. Drivers in Germany can now lease the GLC for 799 euros ($917) a month, with drivers returning the car at the end of the full-service, closed-end lease.

The Mercedes-Benz GLC F-Cell model is the first plug-in hybrid vehicle that combines a fuel cell with a battery that can be charged via a standard wall outlet. Mercedes said that the real-world test will help refine the technology. Mercedes plans to offer the vehicle in Japan next.

The GLC F-Cell has a driving range of 478 kilometers (297 miles) and takes about three minutes to refill the on-board hydrogen tank. GLC F-Cell is equipped with a 13.5 kWh lithium-ion battery that powers its 208-hp electric motor. The fuel cell system is installed under the hood in place of the conventional engine.

Fuel cell technology, which uses a hydrogen fuel cell stack to generate electricity, has been slow to gain traction because of high costs and a lack of a hydrogen refueling infrastructure.

"Regarding costs and standardization, we have not reached the goal yet, but we are heading in the right direction," Juergen Schenk, the head of Mercedes-Benz electric-drive system integration, told reporters in Stuttgart this week. "Fuel cells will see a breakthrough, whether that is going to be in cars, vans or buses remains to be seen."

Other automakers including BMW, are working on fuel cell prototypes that could offer better driving ranges for larger electric vehicles. Volkswagen Group's Audi brand is considering a small-scale production of fuel cell cars in 2020.

Hydrogen filling stations are not widely available yet in Germany, which has slowed the adoption of fuel cell vehicles. However, plans are in the works to have around 100 hydrogen fueling stations operational across the country by next year via a joint venture called H2 Mobility, which includes Daimler, Linde, Royal Dutch Shell and oil company Total. That number may quadruple by 2023, according to Daimler.

Fuel cell vehicles work by converting chemical energy derived from hydrogen into electricity using a fuel cell. The electricity generated is used to power the vehicle's electric motor, while the excess energy is used to recharge the vehicle's lithium-ion battery pack.

Mercedes Benz is not the first automaker to offer a hydrogen powered vehicle. Toyota introduced its first fuel cell vehicle called the Mirai, which the company began delivering to customers in California in October 2015. Japan is investing heavily in building hydrogen-fueling infrastructure as Toyota prepares to showcase the technology at the 2020 Olympic Games. Toyota rival Honda introduced a fuel cell version of the Clarity last year in California.

South Korea-based Hyundai introduced its first mass-market fuel cell vehicle in 2013, with a hydrogen-powered version of the company's Tucson SUV. Hyundai will began selling and leasing its new fuel cell vehicle, the 2019 Nexo SUV, later this year in California.  

While full-electric or fuel cell cars do not emit any emissions on the road, building the cars is energy intensive according to Schenk. Energy demands for production of cars with fuel cells or high-voltage batteries leads to significantly higher emissions of carbon dioxide, a contributor to greenhouse gases responsible for global warming. However, during the life cycle of the vehicle, plug-in hybrids can reduce harmful emissions as much as 55 percent compared to internal combustion engine vehicles.

"That is reason enough for us to believe that this technology will have a long future," Schenk said to Automotive News Europe.

In addition, to fuel cell technology, Mercedes Benz is focusing on battery-powered vehicles. Last month, the company unveiled the its first ever all-electric vehicle, the EQC crossover, as part of a push to roll out 10 fully-electric models by 2022. The automaker expects battery-powered vehicles to make up 15 to 25 percent of its global deliveries by 2025.

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