Driving the Hydrogen B-Class On F-Cell World Drive

Mercedes-Benz marked the 125th anniversary of Carl Benz’ invention of the automobile not by looking back, but by looking to the future of transportation with the F-Cell World Drive.
Three Mercedes Benz F-Cell cars have been circumnavigating the globe to illustrate the viability of hydrogen fuel cell cars for the future and to raise media and public awareness of this promising technology. The F-Cell World Drive will ultimately cover more than 20,000 miles of driving across 14 countries and 4 continents, returning after 125 days to its kick-off point in Berlin.
We drove the first North American leg of the Drive from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to New Orleans, Louisiana. The route of nearly 1,000 miles proved to be both extraordinary and seamlessly unremarkable. It was eye-opening to experience just how far hydrogen fuel cell technology has come in the last decade.
The current F-Cell is quiet, refined, comfortable, and quite fun to drive. The fuel cell, hydrogen tanks, and electric drive components are packaged so well in the car that most people can’t tell the difference between the F-Cell and the standard B-Class Mercedes.
The fuel cell’s missing link is the lack of a hydrogen fueling infrastructure. To drive around the world, the F-Cell World Drive relies on an entourage of 14 support vehicles. In major metro areas, Mercedes takes advantage of high-pressure fueling from commercial hydrogen pumps, a process that takes about the same amount of time as filling up a gasoline car. In remote areas, however, a Sprinter Van with a big pump is employed to pressurize the hydrogen from a Linde tanker to 10,000 psi for maximum range.
Due for a 2015 rollout, the Mercedes F-Cell seems ready for prime time. Now visionary leadership and more fueling stations are needed to make this clean domestic future fuel a reality.