What is it?
Despite its rather ordinary looks, the Mercedes-Benz GLC F-Cell is actually a fairly significant thing indeed. You see, instead of having a traditional petrol or diesel combustion engine under the bonnet, the F-Cell belongs to that rarified set of electrified vehicles that utilises hydrogen fuel cell technology to get it from A to B.
Where fuel cells are often rather large, awkward things to make fit within the confines of a car’s dimensions without compromising practicality too much, Mercedes' newly developed one is so compact that it can fit within the limits of the GLC’s engine bay, and it's installed on the same mounting points that a conventional engine would use. Meanwhile, two carbonfibre-encased tanks that together hold up to 4.4kg of compressed liquid hydrogen are housed beneath the floor.
Now, here’s where it all gets rather complicated. That liquid hydrogen is used to power the fuel cell, which in turn acts as a generator of sorts for an electric motor. There’s an additional 13.5kWh battery pack on board, too, which can also be called upon to power the motor. When this battery is at full charge and the tanks are topped up with hydrogen, Mercedes claims the F-Cell will offer a range just shy of 300 miles.
While that’s still some way short of what you'd expect from a petrol or diesel car, it’s comparable with the ranges offered by the more high-end battery-electric vehicles such as the Jaguar I-Pace and Tesla Model S. And while those cars can take hours to recharge from a conventional home wall box, the F-Cell’s hydrogen fuel tanks, which contribute to the lion’s share of its range, can be topped up in as little as three minutes.
This effectively means you’re getting the emissions-free benefits of an electric vehicle, only without the drawback of lengthy charging times. That said, to achieve the car's full range, you’ll still need to spend an hour and a half recharging that 13.5kWh battery pack.
There are four different driving modes, too: Hybrid, wherein the car will draw power from both the fuel cell and the battery for maximum range; F-Cell, wherein power is exclusively drawn from the fuel cell; Battery, which uses the battery to drive the electric motor; and Charge, wherein the fuel cell can be used to recharge the battery for maximum potential range ahead of topping up the hydrogen tanks.