An SUV with zero local CO2 emissions, times two

The latest crop of green alternative passenger vehicles is making the rounds at this year’s Frankfurt Motor Show, and Mercedes is getting in on the action with a brand-new hybrid SUV. It’s called the GLC F-Cell, and it’s touted as the world’s very first production-ready hydrogen hybrid vehicle. Flying the German automaker’s EQ Power banner, also known as the go-to branding for Merc’s various green solutions, the GLC F-Cell is essentially an SUV that combines plug-in all-electric battery power with hydrogen fuel cell power. The marriage of these two alternative power sources hopes to find a synergy whereby benefits are maximized and disadvantages are minimized, combining the quick refill times of hydrogen power and the long-range capability of electrified assistance, all without the traditional explodey dino juice normally associated with “typical” hybrid vehicles.

The new SUV is part of the latest Mercedes product strategy to produce 10 new battery-electric models by the year 2022. The GLC F-Cell is also a modern addition to the Mercedes CASE strategy, an acronym that stands for, Connected, Autonomous, Shared & Services, and Electric. And while the SUV has yet to show anything terribly noteworthy in terms of connected, autonomous, or sharing features, the novel hybrid stuff is more than worthy of the attention of anyone interested in powertrain technology development. Read on for the specs and details.

Continue reading to learn more about the GLC F-Cell.

Hydrogen Specs

Mercedes Launches First Production Hydrogen Hybrid With GLC F-Cell Drivetrain High Resolution
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Estimated time to fill up is about 3 minutes, more or less matching traditional gas-powered vehicles in terms of convenience.

To complete the GLC F-Cell’s hybrid powertrain, Mercedes pulled technology originally developed for the B-Class F-Cell from 2010. However, the new SUV’s H2 tech advances the original with as much as 40 percent more output, while also reducing overall dimensions by as much as 30 percent. The latter of these advances allows the entire fuel cell powerplant to be shoehorned into the engine compartment and mounted in a fashion similar to a traditional gas engine. Mercedes also managed to reduce the use of platinum, thus lowering costs

Further space saving techniques include mounting the carbon fiber H2 tanks under the vehicle floor. Estimated time to fill up is about 3 minutes, more or less matching traditional gas-powered vehicles in terms of convenience. Assuming you can actually find an H2 station, that is.

Battery Specs

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Mated to the H2 fuel cell is a traditional asynchronous hybrid drive system, with a rear-mounted lithium ion battery rated at 13.8 kWh of capacity.

Mated to the H2 fuel cell is a traditional asynchronous hybrid drive system, with a rear-mounted lithium ion battery rated at 13.8 kWh of capacity. Offering a standard 7.2-kW charger, the battery can see a recharge in just 1.5 hours when plugged into the right external power source.

So, How’s It All Work Together?

Mercedes Launches First Production Hydrogen Hybrid With GLC F-Cell Exterior High Resolution
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Peak output from the H2 hybrid is rated at 147 kW, or roughly 200 horsepower, while torque is rated at 350 Nm, or 258 pound-feet.

Peak output from the H2 hybrid is rated at 147 kW, or roughly 200 horsepower, while torque is rated at 350 Nm, or 258 pound-feet. Top speed is electronically limited at 160 km/h (99 mph). While these numbers are indeed rather conservative, the focus here is obviously on making the most of the available energy sources – efficiency trumps speed, in this case. With that in mind, Mercedes says the car can go 437 km (272 miles) with 4.4 kg (9.7 pounds) of hydrogel fuel onboard. Top off the battery at a plug, and you’ll see an addition 49 km (30 miles) of all-electric range. And assuming you can find a convenient source of H2 fuel, that’s not too shabby.

Boosting the efficiency is a braking energy reclamation system, plus various driving modes to meet the demands of the driving situation at hand. These include Eco, Comfort, and Sport, all pretty self-explanatory. Mercedes is also adding four operating modes that allow for fine-tuning of the various power sources, including Hybrid, F-Cell, Battery, and Charge. Hybrid mode takes power from both the electric and H2 sources, F-Cell is exclusive to the hydrogen source, Battery is all-electric, and Charge sends charge to the battery for extended range before a hydrogen refuel, plus a boost to “power reserves for uphill or very dynamic driving.”

What About Styling And Aesthetics?

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When the production version of the GLC F-Cell is released, expect the usual updates to exterior styling, plus blue highlights on the front grille and wheels, side skirts, and rear bumper, all of which allude to the vehicle’s alternative energy philosophy. An air suspension set-up in the rear and coil springs in front will keep it shiny side up, while aero-optimized 20-inch wheels will reside in the corners.

Okay, Fine, But Is It Still A Mercedes?

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So far, yes. In addition to the usual lineup of high-quality materials and luxury features (automatic climate control and pre-entry climate adjustments, heated seats and mirrors as standard, piano lacquer interior trim, wood paneling, etc.), the GLC F-Cell promises lots of advanced technology, including a spread of safety stuff, such as active cruise control, lane keep assist, blind spot monitor, and parking assist. Infotainment will include a 12.3-inch display behind the steering wheel acting as the digital gauges platform, while a 10.25-inch screen in the center stack will cover the rest of it. Handwriting recognition will be used for user inputs.

What About The Viability Of Hydrogen?

Mercedes Launches First Production Hydrogen Hybrid With GLC F-Cell Exterior High Resolution
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That’s a fair question. While a refill on H2 stuff will only take a few minutes, actually finding an H2 station nearby is not exactly an easy task. Of course, Mercedes is quick to point out that H2 stations are becoming more and more widespread, something the automaker is assisting with directly thanks to a joint venture with the German energy equipment company H2 Mobility, but we’re still a long ways from enjoying the same availability as gasoline refill stations.

That said, maximizing the range offered per fill-up with hybrid assistance is a great way to increase the viability of hydrogen in the long run. The big question now is adoption – will customers get behind the hydrogen movement with enough fervor to justify something like the GLC F-Cell? That remains to be seen.

References

2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class High Resolution Exterior
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Read our full review of the 2016 Mercedes GLC-Class

2010 Mercedes B-Class F-Cell
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Read our full review of the 2010 Mercedes-Benz B-Class F-Cell

2017 Mercedes-Benz Concept EQA
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Read the latest news from Mercedes

At this year’s IAA International Motor Show in Frankfurt, Mercedes-Benz is presenting preproduction models of the new Mercedes-Benz GLC F‑CELL as the next milestone on the road to emission-free driving. Under the technology designation EQ Power, the latest electric model (destined for subsequent series production) from the Mercedes-Benz family is doubly electrifying, for, in a world first, it is set to combine innovative fuel-cell and battery technology in the form of a plug-in hybrid: in addition to hydrogen, the all-electric variant of the popular SUV will also run on electricity. Intelligent interplay between battery and fuel cell, along with short refuelling times, will in future make the GLC F‑CELL a vehicle of high everyday practicality and also suitable for long-distance motoring. With 4.4 kg of hydrogen on board, the preproduction model produces enough energy for a range of up to 437* km in the NEDC. F-CELL drivers will also benefit from a range of up to 49 km in the NEDC thanks to the large lithium-ion battery. An output of 147 kW guarantees both dynamic performance and locally zero emissions driving pleasure. In unveiling the preproduction vehicles of the Mercedes-Benz GLC F‑CELL, Daimler is taking another important step as part of its systematic "CASE" strategy.

Ola Källenius, Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG, responsible for Group Research & Mercedes-Benz Cars Development, emphasises: "Our many years of experience with fuel-cell technology pay dividends in the new GLC F-CELL: its long electric range, short refuelling times and everyday practicality of an SUV will make it the perfect vehicle. This is made possible by the compact construction of our fuel-cell system. Another genuine world first is the combination with a large additional lithium-ion battery, which can be conveniently charged using plug-in technology."

Fuel-cell technology is a firm element of Daimler’s powertrain strategy. Under the EQ product brand, the company is pooling its know-how related to intelligent electric mobility while offering a comprehensive e-mobility ecosystem of products, services, technologies and innovations. EQ is therefore a key part of the company’s strategy for the mobility of the future, known at Daimler as "CASE". The four letters stand for the strategic future pillars of networking (Connected), autonomous driving (Autonomous), flexible use (Shared & Services) and electric drive systems (Electric), which are being systematically further developed and intelligently combined by the company. Between now and 2022, Daimler intends to bring out ten battery-electric vehicles, with the GLC F-CELL representing an important landmark.

Unique: two electric energy sources

The vehicles unveiled at the IAA represent a world first in which a fuel-cell-operated electric car uses a lithium-ion battery as an additional energy source that can be externally charged by means of plug-in technology. Through intelligent interplay, the two energy sources drive the electric motor while offering locally zero emissions driving pleasure. The long range, short refuelling time, an output of 147 kW (200 hp) and the latest generation of assistance systems with powertrain-specific features demonstrate, based on the models on show, that the GLC F-CELL will be a family-friendly electric vehicle of high everyday practicality.

For this world first, the Mercedes-Benz engineers cooperated closely with partners from the Daimler competence network to develop a completely new fuel-cell system. Compared with the B-Class F-CELL, which has been on the market since 2010 (fuel consumption: 0.97 kg H₂/100 km/CO₂ emissions, combined: 0 g/km), the overall drive system offers around 40 percent more output. The fuel-cell system is around 30 percent more compact than before, can for the first time be housed entirely in the engine compartment and is installed on the usual mounting points like a conventional engine. Also, the use of platinum in the fuel cell has been reduced by 90 percent. This conserves resources while lowering the system costs – with no compromises in terms of performance.

The lithium-ion battery in the preproduction vehicles on show has a gross capacity of 13.8 kWh and additionally serves as an energy source for the electric motor. For the first time, it can also be charged externally using plug-in technology. An intelligent operating strategy in combination with the fuel-cell/battery system offers maximum efficiency and comfort. Just like the drive motor, the powerful storage battery is space-savingly installed in the rear of the SUV. By means of the 7.2 kW on-board chargers, it can be conveniently charged from a standard household power socket, a wallbox or a public charging station. The charging time is around 1.5 hours if the full capacity is used.

Two carbon-fibre-encased tanks built into the vehicle floor hold around 4.4 kg of hydrogen. Thanks to globally standardised 700 bar tank technology, the supply of hydrogen can be replenished within just three minutes, which is about the same amount of time it takes to refuel a car with an internal combustion engine.

The F-CELL vehicles on show at the IAA are powered by an asynchronous machine with an output of 147 kW (200 hp) and a torque of 350 Nm. As the electric drive requires no propeller shaft, this makes room for one of the two hydrogen tanks, while the second tank is installed under the rear seat bench.

Coordinated: operating strategy with unique variety of combinations

Like the GLC Plug-in Hybrid, the fuel-cell variant comes with various operating modes and drive programs. The drive programs of the GLC F-CELL will include ECO, COMFORT and SPORT. ECO is optimised for low consumption. COMFORT is geared not only for comfort, but also provides ideal climate control. SPORT optimises the hybrid powertrain for sporty performance.

While the drive programs change the behaviour of the car and therefore the driving experience, the operating modes influence the interplay between fuel cell and high-voltage battery. The combination of drive programs with operating modes is presented for the first time in this form in a fuel-cell vehicle.

Freedom of choice: four operating modes HYBRID – F-CELL – � � BATTERY – CHARGE

The innovative plug-in fuel-cell powertrain combines the advantages of both emission-free technologies and, thanks to its intelligent operating strategy, constantly ensures that the use of both energy sources is optimally adapted to the particular operating situation.

In HYBRID operating mode, the vehicle draws power from both energy sources. Power peaks are handled by the battery, while the fuel cell runs in the optimum efficiency range. The intelligent operating strategy means that the characteristics of both energy sources can be ideally exploited. In F-CELL mode, the state of charge of the high-voltage battery is kept constant by the energy from the fuel cell. Driving almost exclusively on hydrogen is the ideal mode if the intention is to keep the electric range in reserve for certain driving situations.

In BATTERY mode, the GLC F-CELL runs all-electrically and is powered by the high-voltage battery. The fuel-cell system is not in operation. This is the ideal mode for short distances.

In CHARGE mode, charging the high-voltage battery has priority, for example in order to recharge the battery for the maximum overall range prior to refuelling with hydrogen. This mode also creates power reserves for uphill or very dynamic driving.

In all operating modes, the system features an energy recovery function, which makes it possible to recover energy during braking or coasting and to store it in the battery.

Safety first: getting there safely

Daimler applies extremely high safety standards in all its vehicles. This is true of both vehicles with a conventional internal combustion engine and also those with an alternative drive. This means that the vehicles comply with all legal standards and regulations. However, the internal safety requirements for Mercedes-Benz vehicles go one step further. Especially the crash-related requirements are aligned to the so-called Real Life Safety philosophy. The battery and all hydrogen-containing components are governed by particularly stringent safety standards typical of Mercedes. Alongside safety in the event of a crash, all Mercedes-Benz vehicles undergo additional component tests at system level that go far beyond the usual tests. The powertrain components and hydrogen tanks of the F-CELL preproduction vehicles are space-savingly and safely housed in the engine compartment as well as under the floor.

Like all Mercedes-Benz vehicles, the fuel-cell vehicles, too, are exemplary in terms of active and passive safety. With Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC, Lane Tracking Package with Blind Spot Assist and Active Lane Keeping Assist, Parking Package with 360° camera or COMAND Online with traffic sign recognition, the GLC F-CELL will come with safety and comfort built in as standard.

Self-assured: with the DNA of a genuine Mercedes

The GLC F-CELL models on show at the IAA demonstrate that the high expectations on a Mercedes-Benz and all Mercedes-Benz brand values in terms of comfort, sustainability, safety, quality and design are met. When it comes to loading capacity and occupant comfort, the electric SUV will offer excellent everyday practicality. The only differences will be a minimal step in the luggage compartment, familiar from the GLC Plug-in-Hybrid, and the slightly raised rear seat bench due to the positioning of the hydrogen tanks. Climate comfort in the GLC F-CELL will also be totally on a par with that in a conventional vehicle. Automatic air conditioning with pre-entry climate control as well as heated seats and mirrors are included as standard. At cooler temperatures, the vehicle will make energy-efficient use of the waste heat from the fuel cell in order to optimise the energy balance of the vehicle.

The series-production vehicle, like the preproduction models, will be equipped with coil springs on the front axle and with single-chamber air suspension with integral automatic level control on the rear axle. This means that, even when the vehicle is carrying a load, there is no change in spring travel on the rear axle, which guarantees balanced vibration characteristics with a virtually constant natural frequency of the body, including when the vehicle is loaded.

Unmistakable: Touches in the style of EQ Power

The F-CELL models on show at the IAA embody the current Mercedes-Benz design philosophy of Sensual Purity. The design premises include features that emphasise the special status in general and within the GLC family in particular. These design premises are the formal on-road attributes and the technical modifications to the exterior and interior as well as the control and display concept. Blue touches on the radiator grille and light-alloy wheels, side skirts and rear bumper on the one hand, as well as classy style wraps with F-CELL inscription on the other, provide a clearly visible indication of the fuel-cell drive. Specifically styled bumpers, with an enlarged air inlet at the front, as well as aerodynamically optimised 20-inch wheels are the hallmarks of the vehicles on show at the IAA. The interior impresses with its high-grade look & feel and flowing forms as a reinterpretation of contemporary luxury. The centre console features elegant trim with flowing lines exuding unique exclusivity in a piano-lacquer look or versatile modern wood surfaces.

Precision-styled details and the choice of authentic materials by using open-pore wood as trim and a high proportion of wool and linen for the fabric covers, make for an agreeable ambience while contributing to the classy overall impression of the interior.

The cockpit will be further enhanced by the instrument cluster in the form of a full display with 12.3-inch diagonal. Information from the COMAND system is presented on the 10.25-inch central display. The menus and indicators on the displays are geared to the functionality of the combined fuel-cell/battery powertrain. The new-type design style clearly differentiates the fuel-cell vehicle from the conventional GLC. New in the GLC F-CELL is the multifunction touchpad with handwriting recognition, which celebrates its world debut at the IAA in the unveiled preproduction vehicles. This newly developed feature allows telematics functions to be controlled by single- or multi-finger gestures (so-called Multitouch). The touchpad thus offers a full-function and innovative input option over and above LINGUATRONIC in combination with COMAND Online. The touchpad also makes it possible to enter letters, numbers and special characters by means of handwriting. Further control options are offered by Touch Control buttons on the left and right of the steering wheel as well as by voice control.

Timed to perfection: on the road to series production

Daimler is systematically working to prepare for series production of the Mercedes-Benz GLC F-CELL. With the current test fleet, the Mercedes-Benz engineers are taking the final key steps on the road to production start-up. Market-specific sales concepts, including a rental model, are being evaluated at present. Like the conventionally powered GLC, this family-friendly SUV of high everyday practicality will be produced in Bremen. During development and production of the innovative fuel-cell drive, Daimler is able to call upon its global competence network. The centrepiece of the technology, the fuel-cell stack, was developed in Vancouver, Canada, together with partner Ford in the Automotive Fuel Cell Cooperation (AFCC) joint venture. Production takes place directly nearby at Mercedes-Benz Fuel Cell (MBFC). The entire fuel-cell unit and the hydrogen storage system were developed by the Daimler subsidiary NuCellSys in Kirchheim/Nabern in Baden-Württemberg. The Daimler parent plant in Untertürkheim is responsible for fuel-cell system assembly, also in Nabern. The hydrogen tank system, consisting of carbon-fibre-encased tanks, is produced at Daimler’s Mannheim plant, while the lithium-ion battery comes from the wholly owned Daimler subsidiary ACCUMOTIVE in Kamenz, Saxony.

Infrastructure is key

A nationwide infrastructure is essential for the success of electric mobility. The spread of both charging stations and hydrogen filling stations is proceeding apace around the world. Whether at home, at work, on the road or when shopping: there are various ways to supply electric vehicles with power. Also when it comes to H2 infrastructure, progress is constantly being made. Together with its partners in the H2 Mobility joint venture, Daimler has already drawn up a concrete action plan. The network of H2 filling stations is scheduled to reach 100 by the end of next year. By 2023, there will be a network of up to 400 hydrogen filling stations. Similar infrastructure projects are being promoted in Europe, the USA and Japan.

Systematic approach: Daimler opts for electric mobility with fuel cell

It all began back in the 1980s, when Daimler researchers turned their attention to cold combustion. In 1994, Mercedes-Benz unveiled the first fuel-cell vehicle to the global public – the NECAR 1. Many further vehicles followed, including the A-Class F-CELL fleet. In 2011, special attention focused on the F-CELL World Drive, the first round-the-world journey in fuel-cell vehicles. In 2015, the F 015 Luxury in Motion concept car presented an F-CELL plug-in hybrid drive system, designed for 1,100 kilometres of zero emissions motoring. To date, fuel-cell vehicles from Mercedes-Benz, including the B-Class F-CELL and the Citaro FuelCELL Hybrid urban bus, have together covered over eighteen million kilometres, thereby demonstrating the maturity of the powertrain concept. The next technological advance is now imminent, the GLC F-CELL.

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