The Mercedes-Benz B-Class F-Cell Hydrogen Electric Drive
is the newest hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle to hit the streets of America, joining Honda'sFCX Clarity
, which debuted to a limited number of lessees in the U.S. and Japan in 2008. According to Mercedes-Benz, the F-Cell, which converts hydrogen to electricity, gets the equivalent of 90 highway mpg, has a range of 240 miles and emits nothing but water vapor.
“It offers everything you’re used to in a car except emissions,” Dieter Zetsche, chairman of Daimler, the parent company of Mercedes, said in a press presentation
last year. The company says it has made important progress in the past few years in improving the range and performance of its fuel-cell vehicles and in ensuring they can start in cold weather.
To showcase the F-Cell's road-worthiness, Mercedes sent an F-Cell on an around-the world trip
last year, which it completed in 125 days. And to further promote the car, Mercedes rolled out a catchy YouTube video this week (below), featuring an F-Cell draped in LEDs and connected to a camera that captured the outside environment, which was then transmitted back through the LEDs. The effect was to make the car invisible -- emphasizing Mercedes' assertion that the F-Cell is essentially invisible to the environment in terms of its emissions.
Mercedes plans to mass-produce the F-Cell beginning in 2014. One question still looming is price; the company has so far only alluded to cost. "The target is to be cost-wise by the middle of the decade at the level of the diesel hybrid, which is not cheap, but marketable today," Zetsche said. "That would be our first target. It's a challenging target, but a realistic target."
For now, 70 or so drivers in Los Angeles and San Francisco will be able to test out the F-Cell by applying to Mercedes for a lease. The small numbers make sense, given the paucity of hydrogen fueling stations in the world. As Zetsche put it, “The technology is there. We need the filling stations.”
So far, 18 states in the U.S. have hydrogen fueling stations; most operate in California. But whether the state's 26 stations
, most of which are in Los Angeles, are enough for an actual F-Cell road trip remains to be seen.