Mercedes-Benz has delved into the world of fuel-cell vehicles before, with several concepts and the F-Cell prototype from a few years back.

But so far--like most automakers--there's not been a model people can actually buy.

That might change in 2017, according to Motoring (via Motor Authority), as the German automaker is already making plans for a "next generation" fuel-cell vehicle.

Mercedes' most recent fuel-cell vehicle was based on the first-generation Mercedes B-Class in 2009, a compact front-wheel drive minivan not dissimilar from Ford's C-Max. The B-Class F-Cell, as it was known, could deliver a hydrogen range of 250 miles.

The company launched a test fleet of the vehicles and even planned to put a similar vehicle on sale by this year, but axed plans when it became apparent such a project wouldn't justify itself in sales volumes.

That might change in a few years though, with several global automakers--notably Toyota and Honda--planning to launch a production fuel-cell car in the next year or two.

By 2017, fuel-cell sales may be replicating the early days of modern electric vehicles in 2010 and 2011--not huge by any means, but enough to signify a trend, rather than a flash-in-the-pan.

A small but growing network of hydrogen filling stations should be established by then too. Availability of hydrogen is currently one of the main stumbling blocks for fuel-cell adoption, and unlike battery electric vehicles there's no convenient way to refuel at home, either.

Mercedes sales and marketing boss Ola Kallenius told Motoring the "next generation" of fuel-cell vehicles could appear in 2017--expected to be in the form of a crossover or SUV model.

Daimler, the company behind Mercedes-Benz, last year signed an agreement with Ford and Nissan to share costs of future fuel-cell development.

It's one of several large-scale agreements between automakers to bring down the cost of developing the technology, which is considerably more expensive than conventional electric vehicles.


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