Mercedes-Benz is continuing to invest in and develop hydrogen fuel cell technology but believes its first realistic chances of mass production lie in commercial vehicles, such as buses.
Mercedes has been developing fuel cells for more than two decades but has thrown its resources behind making battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) on a mass scale. By 2025, it expects 15-25% of its sales to be BEVs, according to development boss – and future Daimler chairman – Ola Kallenius.
“We are one of the veterans from the fuel cell business over 25 years and have seen it evolve, develop and find its place," said Kallenius. "Now we’re demonstrating with GLC F-Cell that it really works.
“On the way to 2025, what to scale first? BEV, FCV [fuel cell vehicle], or both? We’re talking hundreds of thousands, a big industrial play. We believe the scale is BEV first with the EQ family. It doesn’t make sense to scale them both at the same time.
“We still believe fuel cell is part of the solution to zero-emissions mobility in the future. I’ve told our fuel cell engineers to make the unit more compact and with more performance. We’ve come a long way already, though, and I believe we are the most complete between the performance and range combination.
“We need to make it more compact and take out cost. But our engineers need a vehicle to focus on.
“There is more energy used by a bus in northern Europe in winter on heating it than powering it, so that energy density really helps.
“So the next fuel cells will go to commercial vehicles rather than passenger ones. It’s a flexible strategy, though. We’ll do BEV first and are developing FCV and staying in the game to see if the market swings in that direction.”
Kallenius said Mercedes was also part of the Hydrogen Council, which discusses the industrialisation of the fuel. To that end, it doesn’t want to be involved in providing infrastructure to support hydrogen but does want to work with companies to help deliver it.