At the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show, Mercedes-Benz has debuted a fuel cell variant of the GLC-Class compact crossover that previews an upcoming production vehicle with plug-in capability, allowing owners to charge the car in addition to filling up with hydrogen. Called the GLC F-Cell, Mercedes-Benz claims that this is the first time a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle will come with plug-in capability.
Powering the Mercedes-Benz GLC F-Cell is an electric motor with 197 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque that comes paired to a 13.8-kWh lithium-ion battery mounted at the rear.
In addition, there are two carbon fiber-reinforced hydrogen tanks, including one placed under the rear seats. The entire powertrain has been made 30 percent more compact than the unit in the previous B-Class F-Cell, with most of its components fitting under the hood and installed like a conventional internal combustion engine. The fuel cell system uses 90 percent less platinum and reduces the overall costs of the GLC F-Cell.
On a full tank of hydrogen, the Mercedes-Benz GLC F-Cell can travel around 271 miles. In battery EV mode, the automaker claims that the GLC F-Cell can travel up to 49 miles before it reverts to being a a conventional hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. There will be three drive modes on the GLC F-Cell, including Eco, Comfort, and Sport modes, all of which change the way the car behaves, and four operating modes—Hybrid, F-Cell, Battery and Charge modes.
There’s also a Hybrid mode that allows the GLC F-Cell to utilize both the battery and hydrogen fuel cell to power the vehicle. F-Cell mode runs the car strictly on hydrogen while Battery mode essentially puts the vehicle in EV mode. Finally, Charge mode enables the car to use the hydrogen fuel cell system to act as a generator that charges the battery. In all operating modes, the GLC F-Cell features a brake energy regeneration system that helps recover energy and replenish the battery’s charge.
Design cues that distinguish the GLC F-Cell from a standard GLC crossover include blue accents on the grille, alloy wheels, side skirts, and rear bumper. The GLC F-Cell also features a unique front bumper with larger air inlets and 20-inch alloy wheels that have been optimized to improve the crossover’s aerodynamics. Inside, there’s a 12.3-inch screen and a 10.25-inch instrument screen with menus unique to the GLC F-Cell such as fuel cell-specific menus that show.
Mercedes-Benz is currently getting the GLC F-Cell ready for production as the automaker intends to start manufacturing the crossover by the end of 2019. The fuel cell stack is currently under development in cooperation with Ford, which formed a joint venture with Mercedes-Benz’s parent company, Daimler, for developing fuel cell technology. Production will take place in Vancouver, Canada, but the development work has already been completed at Daimler’s NuCellSys subsidiary in Germany.
Daimler plans to help improve the infrastructure for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and is aiming to have up to 400 hydrogen fuel stations by 2023 as part of its H2 Mobility venture.