Mercedes-Benz unveiled a hydrogen-electric fuel cell hybrid based on its midsize GLC-Class crossover at the Frankfurt motor show this week. Set to go into production in late 2019, the GLC F-Cell pairs a relatively small 13.8-kWh lithium-ion battery with a hydrogen fuel tank and drive system. On hydrogen, the GLC has a range of 272 miles in the European cycle; the battery provides an additional 30 miles of range once the hydrogen runs out. When it comes to power, the GLC F-Cell produces 197 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, with the top speed capped at 99 mph.
This isn’t Mercedes first foray into the world of hydrogen: The automaker fielded a fleet of B-Class compact MPVs back in 2009, but this will be the first production effort that will pair familiar plug-in EV tech with hydrogen power. Two carbon-fiber-encased tanks are located under the floor holding 9.7 pounds of hydrogen, providing the vast majority of the vehicle’s total range.
“Our many years of experience with fuel-cell technology pay dividends in the new GLC F- CELL: its long electric range, short refueling times and everyday practicality of an SUV will make it the perfect vehicle,” said Ola Källenius, Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG, responsible for Group Research & Mercedes-Benz Cars Development. “This is made possible by the compact construction of our fuel-cell system. Another genuine world first is the combination with a large additional lithium-ion battery, which can be conveniently charged using plug-in technology.”
The GLC F-Cell opts for a relatively small lithium-ion battery, with the fuel cell drive system taking up the engine bay up front.
The F-Cell sounds like it it won’t be able to stray too far from hydrogen filling stations, which aren’t exactly plentiful anywhere. The F-Cell’s electric range also looks like a bit of a nail-biter outside of EV strongholds, which leads us to suspect that even those willing to try a hydrogen car would have traded some hydrogen range for a more realistic electric range.
The rarity of hydrogen stations hasn’t stopped Toyota from offering the Mirai to the public (of some southern California counties), recently joined by the Honda Clarity, but we have to wonder just how many hydrogen stations Mercedes expects to pop up between now and 2019. That hydrogen pie will be sliced three expensive ways in 2019, even though Mercedes hasn’t mentioned pricing for the GLC F-Cell yet.