Mercedes-Benz fuel cell SUV PHEV in production; first units of GLC F-CELL to be delivered by end of October
By 2022, Mercedes-Benz’ entire product range will be electrified. There will be electric alternatives in every segment from smart to SUV, with well in excess of 130 variants in total, ranging from 48-volt on-board electrical system with EQ Boost to plug-in-hybrids to all-electric vehicles with batteries or fuel cells.
As part of the drive to the last option, Mercedes-Benz is putting the GLC F-CELL—a plug-in hybrid combining a 13.5 kWh battery (gross, 9.3 kWh net) and a fuel cell stack (combined H₂ consumption 0.34 kg/100 km, combined CO2 emissions 0 g/km, combined electrical consumption 13.7 kWh/100 km) into series production. (Earlier post.) Initial vehicles are to be handed over to selected customers at the end of October.
Compared with the B-Class F-CELL, on the market since 2010 (fuel consumption: 0.97 kg H₂/100 km, combined CO₂ emissions: 0 g/km), the overall drive system of the GLC F-CELL offers around 40% more output. The fuel-cell system is around 30% 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%.
With 4.4 kg of hydrogen on board, the SUV generates enough energy for a range of up to 478 km (297 miles) in hybrid mode. The large lithium-ion battery delivers up to 51 km (32 miles) of range in the NEDC. Combined output is 155 kW, with peak torque of 365 N·m; top speed is 160 km/h (99 mph).
Two carbon-fibre-encased tanks built into the vehicle floor hold 4.4 kg of hydrogen. Thanks to globally standardized 700-bar tank technology, the supply of hydrogen can be replenished within just three minutes.
The 7.4 kW on-board charger will take the pack from 10 to 100% SoC (State of Charge) in approximately 1.5 hours if the full power is used. The asynchronous drive motor and battery pack are installed in the rear of the SUV.
The plug-in fuel-cell drive combines the advantages of both zero-emission drive technologies and continuously optimizes the use of both energy sources in line with the current operating situation. This is also influenced by the selected drive program: ECO, COMFORT or SPORT. There are four operating modes:
HYBRID: 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.
F-CELL: the state of charge of the high-voltage battery is kept constant by the energy from the fuel cell. Only hydrogen is consumed. This mode is ideal for steady cruising over long distances.
BATTERY: 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.
CHARGE: charging the high-voltage battery has priority, for example in order to recharge the battery for the maximum overall range prior to refueling with hydrogen or to create power reserves.
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.
Mercedes-Benz's safety assistance systems are also all on board the GLC F‑CELL. Their sensors have an additional purpose in vehicles that run purely on electric power in that their signals assist the powertrain control with the selection of a range-preserving, efficient strategy for using the on-board energy sources. The energy employed for accelerating the car is used intelligently, taking account of the route characteristics, topography and traffic situation. The driver can always set other priorities, of course, but subtle hints inform them of what they can do intuitively to optimise the vehicle range.
The luggage compartment remains unchanged, with the exception of a minimal step, and the rear seats are only slightly higher positioned in order to make space for the hydrogen tanks. The climate comfort in the GLC F-CELL is on a par with conventional vehicles, and the pre-entry climate control based on grid charging current is an intelligent way of safeguarding the vehicle’s range. 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.
Remote retrieval of vehicle status via Mercedes me provides current hydrogen tank level and current battery charging status as well as current range, mileage covered, driving time and consumption since the last start or since the last trip odometer reset.
The GLC F-CELL is 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 at the rear axle, which guarantees balanced vibration characteristics with a virtually constant natural frequency of the body, even when the vehicle is loaded.
Marketing focus on H₂ cities. The market launch will focus above all on major cities which are already comparatively well equipped with hydrogen filling stations: Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Munich, Cologne and Düsseldorf. The GLC F-CELL, which features an excellent scope of equipment as standard, will be available solely in the form of a full-service rental model (€799/US$919 per month). This will include all maintenance and possible repairs together with a comprehensive warranty package covering the entire rental period.
Production. The heart of the technology, the fuel-cell stack, is produced at Mercedes-Benz Fuel Cell (MBFC) in Vancouver, Canada. 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-fiber-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. The fully fledged, family-friendly everyday SUV is produced in Bremen, just like the GLC with conventional drive.