Mercedes Benz displayed its “car of tomorrow” this week at the US Open in Queens, N.Y. Set to be released in California this November, the new B-Class F-CELL is the first zero-emission vehicle from the luxury dealer.
Sascha Sim, head of advanced product planning for Mercedes, compares the car’s water vapor output to hot breath on a cold morning, leaving only water in its tracks.
“It’s so clean that I would be able to drink the exhaust,” Sim says with a laugh. “In fact, I actually have.”
While fuel cell technology is a fairly new venture for automakers, Mercedes is one-upping the game as this car doesn’t actually need to be plugged in. The fuel cell transforms hydrogen into electrical power, which is then used to drive an electric motor.
But Sim says the difference between Mercedes and other fuel cell vehicles is that it “doesn’t look like a soybean-sized small car.” The roomy crossover features a Mercedes-standard sleek design that comfortably seats five people.
“The idea is to show customers that it doesn’t feel, look or drive like an electric vehicle,” he says. “You can still enjoy maximum torque.”
The virtually noiseless B-Class F-CELL is outfitted with an electric drive system featuring a fuel cell stack that produces a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen to generate electrical power, allowing for nearly 250 miles of pollutant-free driving.
When asked about the car’s performance in winter temperatures, Sim replied that the vehicle has a cold-start capability of minus 25 degrees Celsius. This is partly due to the vehicle’s optimized operating strategy and humidifying and dehumidifying system for the fuel stack.
According to the B-Class F-CELL manual, the vehicle’s basic power load is covered by either the fuel cell system or the battery. The hydrogen needed to fuel this car is already available in select stations around California. Similar to a standard gas station, hydrogen fill-up is just as and quick and simple.
The B-Class F-CELL will be leased to a selected amount of customers in California for about $600 per month. Mercedes is currently accepting leasing applications.
Wide-scale release of this vehicle will hinge on national fuel cell infrastructure establishment, a move that the Obama administration has been slower to act on as it continues to award major government loans to furthering the expansion of battery electric vehicles.