From £35,5508
Hydrogen fuel cell version of swish SUV shows the technology's potential
Simon Davis
9 October 2018

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.

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What's it like?

Despite the presence of all of its incredibly complex technology, the F-Cell is remarkably similar to any other electric vehicle in the way that it drives. The electric motor’s 269lb ft is instantly available from the moment you press the throttle, so acceleration off the line and from lower speeds is usefully immediate, though not quite as alarmingly rapid as it is in the Model S or I-Pace.

The F-Cell’s unique suspension configuration, which comprises coil springs at the front axle and single-chamber air springs with automatic level control at the rear, lends it a pleasingly comfortable ride, too.

Although we only had chance to drive the F-Cell for a short stint on a busy Stuttgart street, body control seemed well managed, while intrusions from lumps and bumps in the surface of the road weren’t particularly noticeable. Light but not particularly feelsome steering also makes the GLC easy to place and manoeuvre in and out of busy traffic.

As for the layout of the interior, it’s basically business as usual. The F-Cell is as well appointed and visually appealing as any other GLC, although it does go without the flashy twin-screen set-up of the new A-Class. Still, the driving position is spot on, and there’s still enough space to make the F-Cell a properly useable family wagon.

Should I buy one?

A more suitable question would be “can I buy one?”, to which the answer is, unfortunately, no. Mercedes doesn’t currently have any plans to offer the F-Cell to customers in the UK.

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And even if it did, the fact that there's only a handful of hydrogen filling stations here would make it an unfeasible option for the vast majority of people anyway.

That’s a massive shame, really, as fuel cell vehicles such as this seem like a really rather excellent way of addressing many of the drawbacks people see in electric vehicle ownership.

Were hydrogen filling stations as commonplace as regular petrol stations, you’d only have to spend a fraction of the time it takes to charge an EV (even on a rapid charger) getting the fuel cell’s hydrogen tanks topped up. The ability to top up so easily would also go a long way to eliminating range anxiety, while you also wouldn’t have to worry so much about whether or not a charge point was going to be in working order, or even compatible with your car, when you arrived.

With so much government and media attention being placed on the development of electric vehicles and their related infrastructure, there can be no denying that they’re becoming an increasingly feasible ownership proposition. It just seems a shame that the same amount of attention hasn’t been placed on cars such as the F-Cell.

Mercedes-Benz GLC F-Cell specification

Tested Germany Price na On sale Not available in UK Engine Electric motor, powered by fuel cell and 13.5kWh battery Power 208bhp Torque 269lb ft Gearbox single-speed automatic Kerb weight na Top speed na 0-62mph na Fuel economy na CO2 0g/km Rivals Toyota Mirai, Honda Clarity, Hyundai Nexo

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Comments
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Add a comment…
Herald 10 October 2018

Why does it have to be one or the other?

What's wrong with having the infrastructre for both? For all the advancements forecast in battery recharging times I still can't see how a 100% BEV future works. Take my local supermarket filling stations for example: they are absolutely clogged up with customers, queues spilling out into the car parks. To recharge a battery, even for 15 minutes, for a similar volume of traffic, would require acres of charging points - impractical. Yes, I know volume should reduce, because some will recharge at home, but this option will nt be available to everyone, and then there are the stops required on busy long-distance routes to consider too, not to mention how the national grid will cope. I foresee a mixed landscape, and this would work. Some big companies are spending considerable sums on developing fuel-cell tech: I doubt they are into wasting their time careering down blind alleys, and with respect, carry a little more clout than @xxxx. BEV and Hydrogen together - way to go.

xxxx 10 October 2018

It doesn't have to be one or the other

I've always said a mix of petrol, diesel and BEV in the short term at least.

Hydrogen uses 4 times more to power than a BEV, the IX35 hydrogen run at the equivalent of 24mpg when tested, no one in their rigt mind would buy one out right, even after 25 years of development things have hardly moved on, god knows how much Toyota have lost on the Mirrai. They only exist at all because of sudsides from the Gov and car companies

typos1 10 October 2018

This is the most uable fuel

This is the most uable fuel cell car to date, pity it doesnt have fast charge.

xxxx wrote:

I've always said a mix of petrol, diesel and BEV in the short term at least.

Hydrogen uses 4 times more to power than a BEV, the IX35 hydrogen run at the equivalent of 24mpg when tested, no one in their rigt mind would buy one out right, even after 25 years of development things have hardly moved on, god knows how much Toyota have lost on the Mirrai. They only exist at all because of sudsides from the Gov and car companies

Lol, love the way you think youre some kind of authority on the matter, not arrogant in the slightest.

Fact is fuel cells have great potential, its worth developing them as well as BEVs. In your haste to post your latest rant you missed out a word from your second sentence, I guess it was "energy" - in parts of the world where there is a lot of sun, which is free, solar generated power can be used to make hydrogen, then how much energy is used to make it becomes irrelevant. The amount of energy that the sun gives us in a square mile of land is enough to power the entire world's electricity demands, we cant harness very much of this energy yet, but we will learn to and as we do the use of fuel cells will become more widespread. And of course developing fuel cells and BEVs means we re not putting all our eggs in one basket.

xxxx 11 October 2018

LOL

typos1 wrote:

This is the most uable fuel cell car to date, pity it doesnt have fast charge.

xxxx wrote:

I've always said a mix of petrol, diesel and BEV in the short term at least.

Hydrogen uses 4 times more to power than a BEV, the IX35 hydrogen run at the equivalent of 24mpg when tested, no one in their rigt mind would buy one out right, even after 25 years of development things have hardly moved on, god knows how much Toyota have lost on the Mirrai. They only exist at all because of sudsides from the Gov and car companies

Lol, love the way you think youre some kind of authority on the matter, not arrogant in the slightest.

Fact is fuel cells have great potential, its worth developing them as well as BEVs. In your haste to post your latest rant you missed out a word from your second sentence, I guess it was "energy" - in parts of the world where there is a lot of sun, which is free, solar generated power can be used to make hydrogen, then how much energy is used to make it becomes irrelevant. The amount of energy that the sun gives us in a square mile of land is enough to power the entire world's electricity demands, we cant harness very much of this energy yet, but we will learn to and as we do the use of fuel cells will become more widespread. And of course developing fuel cells and BEVs means we re not putting all our eggs in one basket.

Coming from a idiot like you that's rich.  Love the bit " ... how much energy is used to make it becomes irrelevant" which just makes you look like a fool.

Fact remains Hydrogen cars need 4 times the energy to do the same distance.

Onlineo 4 July 2019

The reason you can't buy this

The reason you can't buy this car is because it is rubbish. It has a sub 300 mile range on hydrogen when the Hyundai nexus offers nearly 450 miles. The Hyundai is nearly £70,000 or twice the price of the EV equivalent kona or Kia eNiro. So this Merc would probably be North of £100,000.
For the price of 1 Hydrogen filling pump you could put 20 EV fast chargers in 100-200 supermarket carparks.
I agree that it is good to have both tech, but let's not waste too much money on Hydrogen until affordable hydrogen cars arrive and people start buying them.
xxxx 10 October 2018

Hydrogen car

Dumb idea that most manufacturers have given up on.  BEVs rule end of!

jason_recliner 11 October 2018

xxxx wrote:

xxxx wrote:

Dumb idea that most manufacturers have given up on.  BEVs rule end of!

Yep. You know when Daimler Benz, Toyota and Hyundai invest billions to take the lead in providing the energy solution of the future, it's just GOTTA be a dumb idea!

xxxx 11 October 2018

opposite site of coin

jason_recliner wrote:
xxxx wrote:

Dumb idea that most manufacturers have given up on.  BEVs rule end of!

Yep. You know when Daimler Benz, Toyota and Hyundai invest billions to take the lead in providing the energy solution of the future, it's just GOTTA be a dumb idea!

Makes you wonder why Ford, GM, BMW, Renault, PSA, Jaguar, Tesla, Volvo, Mazda, Porsche, VAG, Mclaren, Suzuki, Fiat- Chrysler put next to no money in it compared to BEV R and D.

jason_recliner 11 October 2018

xxxx wrote:

xxxx wrote:

jason_recliner wrote:
xxxx wrote:

Dumb idea that most manufacturers have given up on.  BEVs rule end of!

Yep. You know when Daimler Benz, Toyota and Hyundai invest billions to take the lead in providing the energy solution of the future, it's just GOTTA be a dumb idea!

Makes you wonder why Ford, GM, BMW, Renault, PSA, Jaguar, Tesla, Volvo, Mazda, Porsche, VAG, Mclaren, Suzuki, Fiat- Chrysler put next to no money in it compared to BEV R and D.

No, it doesn't.

Gfos 10 October 2018

apples and pears

"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."

Why on earth are you comparing home charging times??? I don't think many people have a home hydrogen supply (or petrol/diesel for that matter)!!! The comparison is rapid charger times, and home charging is an EXTRA benefit for EVs....

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