Mercedes confirmed today that it will put its first fuel-cell powered vehicle into series production by the end of 2009. The automaker also said it will offer a limited number of these zero-emissions B-Class F-CELL models to customers in America starting in mid-2010, although whether that will be done under a sale or lease agreement is still being determined. In either case, initial production of the B-Class F-CELL will be limited to about 200 total vehicles for both the European and U.S. markets.
Based on M-B's production B-Class compact crossover, this new F-CELL variant reacts high-pressure hydrogen with atmospheric oxygen to create electricity for an electric motor that develops 134 horsepower and 214 lb.-ft of peak torque. A 1.4kWH (kilowatt-hour) Lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery that can be replenished using regenerative braking also is part of the system and can add a bit more boost under maximum-effort acceleration. While the basics of this package share a common heritage with the setup used in the A-Class F-CELL prototype shown in 2004, the specific technology is all new. It provides a host of functional advances, from increased system output and expanded range to improved reliability and the ability to operate in temperatures as low as -25 degrees Celsius (-13 degrees Fahrenheit). The production version of the B-Class F-CELL will have a top speed of 106 mph and be able to travel over 240 miles on a single tank of hydrogen, which can be replenished in about three minutes. However, that speedy refill will only take place after one manages to find their local hydrogen retail outlet.
In making the F-CELL announcement, Dr. Thomas Weber, member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG, responsible for Group Research and Development for Mercedes-Benz Cars noted that: "2009 is the year in which we are establishing further milestones where sustainable mobility is concerned. The B-Class F-CELL is taking on a pioneering role as the world's first fuel-cell-powered automobile to be produced under series production conditions."