2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC F-Cell
Man-made climate change is a hot topic and, regardless of your beliefs about the effect of man-made emissions on the global climate, it’s inevitable that the internal combustion engine will eventually be all but wiped out of existence. With various world governments committing to an all-out ban of non-electric vehicles, automakers aren’t slowing down the process either, with just about every major manufacturer having jumped on the alternative fuels wagon in one way or another in recent years. Mercedes, for example, is following Toyota’s lead and looking to hydrogen as a viable solution to combat emissions and has already proven its viability with cars like the B-Class F-CELL and the Citaro FuelCELL-Hybrid – two vehicles that have logged more than seven million miles in test runs. Now, Mercedes has introduced the GLC F-Cell, the world’s first plug-in fuel-cell vehicle. As such, the GLC F-Cell promises as much as 301 miles from just 9.7 pounds of hydrogen and the 13.8-kWh battery. And, it does so while producing around 200 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque– more than enough to get you up to speed.
With hydrogen availability expanding, that’s certainly good news, but we’re not there quite yet. Outside of the electric and hydrogen powertrain, the GLC F-Cell also sports its own unique look in comparison to the ICE-powered GLC-Class, so it will even stand out in the crowd. Now, it may not have that internal combustion engine or even the 241 horsepower afforded by the standard model’s 2.0-liter, but it will still please all of you purists out there as it does have all of the Mercedes DNA that you’ve come to love and find it impossible to live without. So, now that the GLC F-Cell has made its official debut at the Frankfurt Auto Show, let’s take a good look at it and see what it’s all about.
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Here’s Why Mercedes Is Doing the Right Thing with the Hydrogen GLC F-Cell
Hybrid and all-electric cars are slowly integrating among conventional production vehicles, but automakers still have some challenges to overcome. While hybrids are still relying on gasoline to work, electric cars still need better range and larger refill networks. Sure, we have quite a few capable EVs, like everything Tesla makes, the Chevy Bolt, and the new Nissan Leaf, but range can still be an issue in large countries and most continents outside the United States. But this is where Mercedes’ new solution, the hydrogen hybrid, comes in.
Unveiled at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show, the company’s latest F-Cell model is built around the GLC crossover, and it’s slated to go into production. And unlike other green attempts, this vehicle pairs plug-in battery power with hydrogen fuel cells for what could become the most sustainable zero-emissions solution. It’s not yet ready to hit dealerships, mostly because there’s no hydrogen infrastructure, but the Germans have a plan, and this project could become feasible in five to six years. So why do I think that hydrogen power is a better solution that electricity?
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Hybrid All The Things
In case you didn’t hear, Mercedes-Benz just released the world’s very first hybrid hydrogen car. Dubbed the GLC F-Cell, the technology involved is mighty impressive indeed – in addition to a traditional fuel cell power source, which converts hydrogen into electricity and water vapor, the GLC F-Cell comes equipped with a large plug-in lithium-ion battery pack that adds another 30 miles of all-electric range when fully charged. Working in concert, the two power sources aim to complement one another by offering both the quick-fill convenience of hydrogen with the long-range capabilities of a hybrid system. It makes a lot of sense, even if H2 power is still a longs ways off from widespread adoption, and given the industry-wide tendency towards ever-greater numbers of hybrid offerings, it got us thinking – is there anything that wouldn’t benefit from hybridization?
Naturally, given the association hybrids enjoy with green sensibilities, sports cars might seem like an odd segment for the application of hybrid technology – at least until you read up on the McLaren P1, Porsche 918 Spyder, and Ferrari LaFerrari. The Mercedes-AMG Project One is another, more-recent example of hybrid power used in the name of speed.
Indeed, hybrid systems seem to do just about everything better – they go farther, go faster, and go more efficiently, all good stuff. However, no technology is perfect, and these systems still have their disadvantages. For starters, they add weight, and a lot of it. Those batteries and electric motors aren’t exactly trivial when it comes to extra mass. Secondly, they add a good deal of complication as well, which means more stuff to break or go wrong, which can be a problem when shooting for affordability.
However, in terms of power performance and efficiency and greenness, hybrids are just better. And with more automakers throwing their hat into the hybrid ring, we can bet there will be significant advances in terms of weight reduction and simplification. Indeed, like early production turbocharged engines, hybrids are looking more and more like a panacea for many of the industry’s ills.
What do you think?
Mercedes Launches First Production Hydrogen Hybrid With GLC F-Cell
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.
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Will Thermal Nuclear Propulsion be the Way to Mars and Beyond?
From the 1950s all the way until the early 1970s, NASA was on a mission to send Mankind to Mars and, as such, was considering different forms of propulsion. The most promising was a nuclear-powered rocket. Of course, the plans to go to Mars were shelved around the same time of the last Apollo mission, and Man hasn’t been out past the international space station (to the best of our unclassified knowledge) since. Sure, we’ve sent a number of unmanned probes, but outside of that, we’ve stuck pretty close to home. But, technology has improved drastically over the years, and the phone in your hand is now more powerful than the computers that helped Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin land on the moon while Michael Collins piloted the command module and observed from lunar orbit on July 20, 1969. Now we’ve got guys like Elon Musk pressing the issue and wanting to colonize Mars in the near future, so it’s only fitting that NASA step its game up and prepare for a journey to the red rock.
With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that NASA is considering thermal nuclear propulsion once again. While this may sound inherently dangerous, it’s really not that bad. This type of propulsion works by taking a liquid fuel like hydrogen and heating it inside a nuclear reactor. The fuel is then forced out of rocket nozzles at high speed, ultimately creating thrust. It was previously found that this kind of propulsion is nearly twice as efficient as the typical rocket that relies on a chemical reaction for thrust. This would allow the nuclear craft to carry less fuel (which means less weight) and a give a quicker trip to our destination, wherever it may be. Estimates place the travel time from earth to Mars at about four months, which is nearly 70 percent of the time it would take with a conventional rocket. It’s not quite Warp Drive, but it’s a step in the right direction, right Scotty?
With that all in mind, NASA has contracted a company known as BWXT Nuclear Energy to again explore the potential of this type of propulsion. Keep reading to learn a little more about it.
2020 Nikola One
Nikola Motors has been in the news lately over its innovative yet seemingly troubled turbine hybrid electric turned hydrogen electric Class 8 semi truck concept. Well, the startup automaker has defied naysayers by actually producing a working prototype and meeting its December 2, 2016 debut deadline. Company founder and CEO Trevor Milton hosted the debut event near downtown Salt Lake City, Utah to a crowd of people from around the globe.
If you recall, the Nikola One was initially designed to be a fully electric truck with a “fuel agnostic” turbine engine acting as a range extender. Only a few months after the Nikola’s announcement of the semi truck in May 2016, the company shifted gears, concentrating on a custom-built hydrogen fuel cell-powered range extender. The change in plans planted seeds of doubt in hopeful onlookers, but Nikola Motors has seemingly made the truck a reality.
The truck is said to be 100-percent zero emissions with an 800 to 1,200-mile cruising range when fully loaded with 65,000 pounds thanks to its 320 kWh battery that generates 2,000 horsepower and 1,000 pound-feet of torque via six electric-drive motors. Nikola Motors is backing its truck with a million miles of free hydrogen fuel. Part of Nikola Motors’ business model is building a network of hydrogen stations. The initial phase has 56 stations planned, with the eventual number growing to 364 across the U.S. and south Canada. Construction is set to begin in January 2018 with an opening date in late 2019. Non-Nikola owners will be able to avail themselves of the hydrogen, but at a cost of $3.50 per kilogram.
The Nikola One is still in the development stage, but production is set to begin in 2019, with units hitting the road in 2020. The truck will be built by a third party manufacturer and will be serviced by Ryder, a current giant in the trucking industry.
CEO Trevor Milton shared a barrage of information at the One’s debut. We’ve compiled the high points in our review below, so keep reading for more. You can also watch the entire 42-minute keynote speech.
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Hyundai has led the fight to bring hydrogen fuel cell vehicles to the public for some time now, having achieved its goal in 2015 on a small scale with the ix35 crossover. Now the automaker is planning greater things with its sister company, Kia.
Sae-Hoon Kim, Hyundai-Kia’s head of hydrogen fuel cell research, said in an interview with AutoCar, “We will launch a dedicated vehicle, although it is not clear what vehicle type it will be based around.” Kim’s comments come after Toyota’s release of the Mirai fuel cell vehicle that rides on its own unique platform and boasts its own styling.
“Developing a bespoke car offers clear advantages,” Kim continues. “For instance, the larger the radiators on a fuel cell car the better, and you can see on the Mirai that they have developed a cooling solution that helps with that scenario.” It’s implied that creating a vehicle around the fuel cell powertrain is much simpler, rather than modifying an existing platform for fuel cell use.
Hyundai obviously hasn’t officially announced what type of vehicle its fuel cell vehicle will be, but sticking with a crossover platform is highly likely thanks to how well crossovers and SUVs selling.
Kim further divulged the automaker is aiming for a 500-mile range per fill-up with a top speed of 110 mph. Hyundai’s current fuel cell, the ix35, has a range of 375 miles with a 100-mph top end. Simply adding a larger hydrogen storage tank will extend the range, though more power or better aerodynamics will be needed for the increase in top speed.
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The Hyundai Tucson is probably one of the last cars anybody would associate with land speed records. But, the rules of the game change a little bit anytime hydrogen is involved. Such was the case when the Tucson Fuel Cell claimed the land speed record for a production hydrogen-powered SUV at the Soggy Dry Lake Bed in California. During one of its runs, the Tucson Fuel Cell clocked in a top speed of 94.6 mph to set the record. Considering that the number of eligible SUVs that can supplant this new record is relatively thin, the Tucson Fuel Cell could be holding on to its achievement for some time.
Regardless of its level of difficulty, a record is still a record and Hyundai, for its part, is all too happy to claim it as it gives the Tucson Fuel Cell another achievement to own for itself. But, the new land speed record wasn’t the only thing the Tucson Fuel Cell “owned” during its time at the Soggy Dry Lake Bed. The fuel-cell SUV also showcased a handful of its capabilities, none more impressive than its ability to easily traverse the off-road terrain of the lake bed’s environment.
These abilities certainly bode well for the Tucson Fuel Cell’s appeal, especially in a market like Southern California, which has the highest concentration of hydrogen refueling stations anywhere in the US. Hyundai already has a share in that market, thanks to the number of Tucson Fuel Cell models sold in that area. And, as Hyundai continues to tout the Tucson Fuel Cell’s capabilities, it’s appeal will likely increase to coincide with the state’s rapidly evolving hydrogen infrastructure.
As far as timing is concerned, Hyundai couldn’t have picked a better time to set the land speed record for a production, hydrogen-powered SUV.
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You may have noticed an unusual number of “Back to the Future” references in your social media; that’s because 10/21/2015 is the date shown on Doc Brown’s DeLorean time machine in “Back to the Future 2.” In the plot of the movie, this is the day that Marty McFly arrives in the future to try and fix the things that have gone wrong in the timeline.
Though the DeLorean is the automotive star of the franchise, there’s a Toyota connection as well. Marty’s dream car is a black 1985 Toyota Xtracab 4x4 pickup, and Toyota’s taken the opportunity to play it up a little bit. (DeLorean probably would too, if it was still in business.) In addition to creating a “Back to the Future” edition of the all-new 2016 Tacoma, complete with 1980s-style KC light bar and nerf bumpers, the brand has brought its Mirai fuel-cell vehicle into the loop with a short video called “Fueled by the Future.” The video features the aforementioned Tacoma concept along with Christopher Lloyd, Michael J. Fox and other familiar faces.
Launched for 2005, the Tucson compact crossover was Hyundai’s answer to the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, and the Ford Escape. The Tucson did surprisingly well its first year, selling over 60,000 units in the U.S. alone. The small crossover slotted under Hyundai’s larger Santa Fe and Veracruz crossovers. Sharing its platform with the Elantra sedan and Kia Sportage crossover, the Tucson proved to be a decent vehicle for moving people and their stuff.
Hyundai launched the Tucson’s second generation for 2010 that included a more stylized look and more efficient engines. The 2015 Tucson is part of Hyundai’s latest experiment with hydrogen fuel cell technology. The new hydrogen system totally replaces the Tucson’s gasoline engine with a power system that runs only on hydrogen, and only emits water vapor and heat as an exhaust.
While the 2015 Tucson isn’t Hyundai’s first attempt at hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, it’s Hyundai’s first successful attempt. The Korean automaker is currently leasing Tucson FCV in select areas of California, including Los Angeles. For $2,999 down and $499 a month, owners can drive their Tucson FCV without the cost of refueling, as Hyundai is including free hydrogen fill-ups at its ‘At Your Service’ maintenance centers.
Updated 08/06/2015: Hyundai announced that the ix35 Fuel Cell (the global name for the Tucson Fuel Cell outside the U.S.) was driven for 24 hours with zero emissions. Behind the wheel were Arnt-Gøran Hartvig (Sports Scientist) and Marius Bornstein (Master of Physics) who traveled around the public roads in Germany, emitting nothing but water vapor. In order to brake the record, the car covered a 186 miles route between Vatenfall’s hydrogen station in HafenCity, Hamburg and a Shell hydrogen station in Sachsendamm, Berlin as many times as possible in 24 hours.
Click past the jump to read more about the 2015 Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell.
I have a friend who several years ago left the his job as a very successful automotive journalist for a public relations position with one of the world’s largest car manufacturers. When I asked him why he did it, he explained that once he had driven every low-volume supercar under the sun, the job actually started to get boring, and the logistics and scale of high-volume car manufacturing started to look more interesting. At the time I thought his brain had fallen out through his ear, but after some reflection, I think I new what he meant.
These five videos from Toyota showing the build process of the new Mirai fuel-cell sedan reinforce his sentiment. There’s no music, no voiceovers and no obnoxious edits, just cars getting screwed together by people who know what they’re doing. It might sound weird, but watching it all come together honestly gave me a sense of Zen and completeness.
The packaging requirements of a hydrogen fuel-cell car make the assembly particularly interesting to watch. The third video shows the fuel being assembled separately. By the time the battery pack, electric motor and absolutely massive fuel cells are all bolted together, you might begin to wonder if the engineers actually bothered to figure out how to fit it all in the compact chassis. Obviously it all comes together, but actually watching it is truly fascinating.
Though the Mirai uses many components common throughout the rest of the Toyota lineup, its low-volume, experimental status means it’s assembled at the Motomachi Plant, which started out as Toyota’s first assembly facility 56 years ago. Now nicknamed “LFA Works, “ it’s where Toyota’s most special cars are assembled, including the LFA, Soarer, Corona and Supra.
Continue reading to learn how the Toyota Mirai is made.
No matter where you stand on climate change — Al Gore, or loving doing burnouts with your six-wheeled Hummer — there are a few undeniable facts that I think everyone can agree upon. First, we like fossil fuels — a lot. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, North America (including the United States, Mexico, and Canada) consumed an average of nearly 23.5 million barrels of petroleum products a day in 2013, with the U.S. gobbling up about 19 million barrels all by itself. Then there are coal and natural gas, which combine with oil to create 67 percent of electricity generated stateside, with coal accounting for 39 percent of that.
Clearly, it’s important stuff. These three energy sources essentially created modern civilization. But there’s a problem. I’m talking about supplies. According to one study, world oil reserves are projected to run dry in just 35 years. Of course, this projection is based on myriad factors that will probably change; new reserves will be found and consumption will fluctuate. But the writing is on the wall – we’re going to need a new source of motive power eventually.
Now, I’m not here to frighten anyone or moralize on lifestyle choices (although you should probably find a secluded parking spot for your Hummer). I’m here to talk about the future of the automobile, one where gasoline has gone the way of the dinosaur. So, without petroleum, what do we have?
Hydrogen is looking like our best bet. Several automakers are developing not only the cars to use it, but the infrastructure to support it. But what is hydrogen power, and most importantly, how will it change the face of the automotive world?
Click past the jump to read more about hydrogen power.
Even though Mercedes has been toying with self-driving cars since the mid-1980s, which was when then Daimler-Benz was working with Professor Ernst Dickmanns from the University of Munich, it wasn’t until 2013 when Mercedes-Benz rediscovered its passion of creating a vehicle that drives autonomously. Not even two years later, the three-pointed star is back with an autonomous concept car that should get all the spotlights at the 2015 edition of CES (Consumer Electronics Show), the F 015 Luxury in Motion.
Offering four seats and a fuel cell plug-in hybrid drivetrain that gives it an entirely green autonomy of 684 miles, the F 015 Luxury in Motion represents what Mercedes-Benz thinks that a luxury car from 2030 could end up looking and feeling like. While its egg-like exterior should be the first to polarize discussions, it is the car’s interior which will keep them going, especially since all four seats can swivel to face each other while the car is driving its four passengers by itself in total comfort.
Unlike a prototype S-Class W140, which used saccadic computer vision and probabilistic approaches to react in real time to road and traffic conditions and drive mostly by itself from Germany to Denmark back in 1995, the F 015 Luxury in Motion relies on low, mid and long-range radar, lasers and 3D video cameras to check all its surroundings in real time. The funny thing is that almost all the technologies found on the concept are production-ready, many of them being already available on current Mercedes-Benz models.
Updated 09/22/2015: We’ve added a series of new photos we took at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show. Find them in the "Pictures" tab.
Click past the jump to read more about Mercedes’ future concept.
As the search for an alternative to fossil fuels continues, BMW is making moves toward a hydrogen-powered vehicle, according to British publication AutoCar.
Speaking with BMW’s sales and marketing boss Ian Robertson, AutoCar released a report recently outlining the German automaker’s intention to develop a fuel-cell car for release in the near future: “We’ve said we’ll continue to invest in hydrogen and that will result in a small number of production test vehicles being made to prove the technology works,” said Robertson. “The real issues lie not around what we can do, though, but whether the infrastructure can be built up to supply hydrogen in the marketplace cost-effectively.”
According to the report, fuel-cell stack packaging and hydrogen storage, both major hurdles for the fuel cell-powered vehicle, have made significant advances in the past few years. Flying under the “i” Series designation, of which the i3 electric and i8 hybrid are both part, BMW looks to be developing an i5 hydrogen-powered car that would use a slightly altered version of the powertrain found in Toyota’s FCV.
However, Robertson also hinted that advanced electricity storage technology, such as lithium air and solid-state batteries, could “see charging time and range worries disappear,” giving the EV a significant boost in the marketplace. “At some point in the future the technologies will switch over. When the crossover comes and the focus becomes electricity, the rate of learning will accelerate even faster,” Robertson said. “Relatively, that time is not far away.”
Note: BMW i3 pictured here.
Click past the jump to read more about BMW’s future hydrogen car.
The Toyota Mirai is proving to be more popular than even Toyota anticipated, potentially paving the way for the hydrogen fuel cell vehicle to follow in the Toyota Prius’ footsteps as a pioneer in the alternative fuel segment. While it’s still a little premature to laud the Mirai in equal terms as the Prius, demand for the former has forced Toyota to spend 20 billion yen ($165 million as of 12/12/2014) to triple the domestic production capacity for the fuel-cell sedan.
Japanese newspaper Nikkei is reporting that Toyota is also planning to increase production capacity at its factory in Aichi in order to accommodate the increased output of fuel-cell stacks and hydrogen tanks for the Mirai. The Japanese automaker also plans to add more equipment on a separate Aichi site that is heavily involved in vehicle assembly. The additional capacity should give Toyota the resources to meet the rising demand for the Mirai. The vehicle is scheduled to hit dealerships in Japan on December 15, 2014, but interest in the car likely means that Toyota will have to work long hours to meet the number of models that will likely be ordered as a result of the this spike in demand.
According to Nikkei, Toyota plans to build about 400 models for its home market by 2015. The Mirai will then follow its Japan release by arriving in Europe by September 2015 with just around 50 to 100 models sold annually. Meanwhile, the U.S. is scheduled to get its shipment, believed to be around 200 to 300 models, by the end of 2015. Due to the availability of hydrogen and other variables, California will be the only state to get the Mirai for the time being.
All these allocations and the possibility of a sales expansion in the U.S. means that production of the Mirai could be increased as Toyota gears up to produce more models in the coming years.
Click past the jump to read more about Toyota Mirai.
Remember Toyota’s hydrogen-powered FCV concept from the 2013 Tokyo Motor show? It took a couple of years, but for the 2015 model year, Toyota released the production version of the FCV Concept called the Toyota Mirai. In short, the Mirai is a sporty looking car that has an electric drivetrain and is powered completely by hydrogen. Currently only available in certain locals that have hydrogen fueling stations, the Mirai can achieve up to 310 miles per tank of hydrogen and emits nothing but a little H20 from its “exhaust” pipe. For being the best of its kind at this time, the Mirai has a respectable amount of cargo room in the rear boot and features an upscale interior with a digital, center-mounted instrument cluster and a large touchscreen infotainment system. Priced at more than $50,000 here in the U.S. the materials and their fit and finish inside are comparable to that of a Lexus or BMW.
When the Mirai made its official debut, Toyota also announced that it was unleashing a large campaign to start making hydrogen readily available for the masses. The brand has teamed up with hydrogen supplier Air Liquide to bring hydrogen to New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, to name a few. These add to the 19 refueling stations Toyota has helped bring to Southern California in the past.
Toyota believes that hydrogen will eventually be a fuel of choice, so it has been pushing the implementation of it pretty hard. So hard, in fact, that the Mirai is actually part of Toyota’s core lineup. Of course, it isn’t available in places where hydrogen isn’t available, but something tells us that Toyota will continue to push for new hydrogen stations in the future and will bring the Mirai and even more hydrogen vehicles to new areas as quickly as it can. Until then, take a look at our full review below.
Click past the jump to read more about the 2016 Toyota Mirai.