Jumping on the fuel-cell bandwagon with Honda, General Motors, and Toyota, Mercedes-Benz has announced it will begin leasing around 100 of its latest F-Cell fuel-cell vehicles in California starting this December.
The company has not announced a lease price, but Bloomberg News estimates the price will be between $600 and $800 a month.
F-Cell is a storied name from the company that has been working on fuel-cell vehicles since the 1970s. The latest example is based on Mercedes’ B-Class, a four-door hatchback about the size of Volkswagen Golf. We drove the previous F-Cell car which was based on the smaller A-Class.
The latest F-Cell carries 3.7 kg of hydrogen in tanks pressurized to 10,000 psi, as well as a 134 hp electric motor and lithium-ion battery under the floor. The company claims a range of 240 miles, giving the F-Cell a fuel efficiency of about 64 miles per kilogram. (For reference, 1 kg of hydrogen contains about the same energy as one gallon of gas.) Mercedes’ Manager of Advanced Product Planning says he expects consumers to be able to fill the F-Cell up with hydrogen for about $50 to $60 in Southern California--about the same as filling the tank of a large SUV. Hydrogen fuel, however, will be included in the lease price of the F-Cell, along with free maintenance and insurance.
In a brief drive around Manhattan today, the car felt quick, responsive, and quiet. We tested a previous-generation Canadian-market B-Class in 2007, and this car felt smoother and more responsive with all its drivetrain weight below the seats.
Mercedes is looking for a diverse (and well heeled) group of consumers to provide feedback about driving a fuel-cell vehicle. “We want to make the case for hydrogen electric vehicles,” says Sascha Simon, Mercedes Manager of Advanced Product Planning. “This is the end-game of transportation--whenever that end game is. There is no scientific or technical obstacle to this technology. All that is needed is mass production.” To that, we’d add readily available, affordable fuel and means of transporting and storing hydrogen, as well.