News / Motoring
Friday, December 11, 2009
Mercedes-Benz B-Class Fuel Cell
Image: © 2009

Mercedes-Benz's B-Class F-CELL Comes With Space Shuttle Technology

MONTE-CARLO, MONACO - theirEarth Motoring recently test drove (December 5, 2009) the new zero-emissions Mercedes-Benz B-Class F-CELL hydrogen fuel cell powered car at an E-Drive test session held by Mercedes-Benz in the Principality of Monaco. The B-Class F-CELL is a revolutionary fuel cell production car with what is probably the highest technology car powertrain on the Planet. We road tested this new B-Class fuel cell car (see photo) and also test drove the new smart electric car as part of a Mercedes-Benz TecDay E-Drive event held in Monaco. The F-CELL B-Class uses hydrogen fuel cell technology as found on NASA's Space Programs and delivers it to four wheels on the ground.

The Mercedes-Benz B-Class fuel cell car gives you a strong zen feeling as you sit in it and continually realize that you are driving a car that emits zero emissions and that Mercedes-Benz has created this car for use for today. Our two motoring test drivers took the hydrogen powered B-Class F-CELL around the Monte-Carlo streets, which included tackling the downhill 180 degree ex-Loew's corner and a controlled acceleration run through the famous GP tunnel on the Monaco circuit - however we moderated the exit speed to a legal one and not the 300 km/h (188 mph) that the F1 cars reach when they exit the tunnel. What was so remarkable to us was how well executed the engineering is on the F-CELL B-Class, whose hydrogen fuel-cell powerplant is also installed on the new 2010 Mercedes-Benz Citaro passenger bus in a doubled-up series configuration.

Inside the B-Class, the F-Cell powerplant is extremely silent and gives the driver the incredible feeling of being in a vehicle that exceeds all the technical capabilities of the cars around it, with its zero emissions and water vapour as an exhaust. Three hydrogen storage tanks, each with a capacity of about 4 kg, are mounted safely below the sandwich floor construction in the centre of the vehicle at a storage pressure of 700 bar, and the time to refill these is about 3 minutes in communities that have wisely installed commercial hydrogen refueling stations and infrastructures. The Hydrogen fuel used can be acquired as a byproduct of industrial chemical processes, or alternatively made directly through the electrolysis of water.

For those with an admiration for mechanical systems, Mercedes-Benz had created a cut-away model for the media journalists that exposed the B-Class F-CELL's entire fuel cell powertrain system. The B-Class F-CELL's lithium-ion battery pack is mounted in the rear of the car under the sandwich floor, which acts as power storage, initiates the fuel cell process, and balances the electrical surge on the fuel cell engine. This allows the hydrogen fuel cell to power up during acceleration with the battery pack meeting any additional electricity demands. 

The lithium-ion battery pack on the Mercedes-Benz F-CELL B-Class is rated at 1.4 kWh and has a rated power output of 35 kW. The Mercedes-Benz designed 100 kW (136 hp) 290 Nm maximum torque electric motor delivers the vehicle's entire output power, which propels the B-Class forward. The high torque of the F-CELL's motor makes the B-Class incredibly fast off a standing start and passing power is outstanding. We estimated that the B-Class fuel cell test model had an under 10 second zero to 60 (96 km/h) acceleration  capability. Mercedes-Benz says that the top speed of the B-Class F-CELL is 170 km/h (106.3 mph).

The Mercedes-Benz B-Class Fuel Cell is now in limited production as a 2010 model for select world markets, and the cars are being marketed to customers in a special lease program which includes a 100% full support Mercedes-Benz servicing package. Areas that wish to take part in the program need to make their own infrastructure investment in hydrogen refuelling stations. Its a great investment opportunity for shrewd energy companies or local governments that wish to take the lead in this market and many are now getting involved with this new high growth technology.

We spoke with Dr. Christian Mohredeick, Director of Fuel Cell & Battery Drive Development for the Daimler Group who is also very involved in the Mercedes-Benz Citaro Fuel Cell Bus program. He said that Daimler is continually improving the fuel cell engine's efficiency and manufacturing cost structure, and that they are absolutely confident that their R&D will deliver very successful results. In general, there is a huge demand expected throughout the world for hydrogen infrastructures as communities install zero emissions buses to carry the public and customers who require long range cars choose cars with the hydrogen fuel cell process.

The Mercedes-Benz's new Citaro Fuel Cell bus uses two B-Class F-CELL powerplants -  the same as found on our test car but in a doubled-up modular configuration. In general, hydrogen fuel cell powerplants will probably become the norm for all long distance transportation in the near future, whereas 100% battery powered micro cars and gasoline/diesel hybrid powered cars will meet the urban requirements. In reality the investment community has been slow to react, but much like in wind power, however, the 'early birds' with real money are taking the first advantage in fuel cell implemetation and gaining a huge advantage.

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