What is it?
The way some of us will be driving in 2020 - possibly. With 100 fuel cell prototypes and 2.8 million miles of testing, Mercedes is now putting the nearly finalised fuel cell drivetrain into 200 B-Classes, with the intention of completing a few more years of real-world testing with real-world drivers.
This Mercedes-Benz B-Class F-Cell is as close to a production car as any fuel-cell-powered prototype in existence. That’s because the company has the huge advantage of the A/B-Class ‘sandwich’ platform, which was first launched in 1998.
Between the two floors there is a considerable void, which swallows three cylindrical hydrogen tanks, the fuel cell stack and a small lithium ion battery. The electric motor that drives the front wheels is mounted in the car’s nose.
Since the first A-Class-based prototype appeared in 1999, Mercedes has managed to massively shrink down the size of the fuel cell, as well as improving power output by 30 per cent and reducing hydrogen consumption by another 30 per cent.
The fuel cell stack can now also operate at 25deg C below freezing and it will start up instantly at -15deg. Cold-weather operation proved a developmental hurdle.