Mercedes delivered its first plug-in hybrid F-Cell fuel cell SUV in Berlin earlier this week.
Like earlier projects from Toyota, Honda, and GM in the U.S., Mercedes is only leasing or renting the vehicles (it says "renting short-term or long-term") to select customers in German cities where hydrogen refueling infrastructure is available. Those include Berlin, Stuttgart, Düsseldorf, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Munich, and Cologne.
Germany currently has 50 hydrogen fueling sites in those seven cities, and Mercedes-Benz has partnered with chemical and petroleum companies to expand the network to 100 stations by the end of 2019—and eventually to 400 stations, the company said in a release.
The F-Cell reportedly has some common components with the upcoming Mercedes-Benz EQC electric SUV, which is expected to have a 200-mile range from its batteries in European driving. Mercedes officials in the U.S. have said it will have a longer range when the car goes on sale here in 2020.
The F-Cell's tanks hold 4.4 kilograms of hydrogen, which give it a range of 267 miles on hydrogen. And as the first fuel-cell vehicle that also has a plug-in battery, the F-Cell gets another 32 miles of range from its plug-in battery (based on a European driving cycle.)
Originally shown in at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2017, the F-Cell has four driving modes: Battery, which runs strictly on the battery for up to 32 miles; F-Cell, maintains the charge level in the battery, using net energy only from the fuel-cell; Hybrid, which depletes both the battery and the hydrogen in the tanks in what Mercedes says is the most efficient way; and Charge, which uses the fuel cell to charge the battery.
The motor puts out 208 horsepower, which Mercedes describes as an output that helps to "ensure high driving dynamics," though on paper that horsepower rating falls well behind the Tesla Model X or many competing gas-powered SUVs.
Mercedes points out in its press release that it has been working on fuel-cell vehicles since it produced the NECAR 1 test van in 1994, a full-size commercial van in which the fuel cell occupied the entire cargo area. Indeed, the company was once a leader in fuel-cell vehicles, along with General Motors. Now the landscape has changed, with Honda and Toyota (and, soon again, Hyundai) as the only automakers who make fuel-cell vehicles available to consumers.