Mercedes-Benz is joining the fuel cell crowd: the company has announced plans for its first series-produced fuel cell vehicle, called the B-Class F-CELL. (MB alluded to the vehicle back in January at the Detroit Auto Show, but this makes it official.) The F-CELL will be available in the U.S. and Europe, with a small initial production run of 200 units. The first cars are expected to be delivered in early 2010.
Like other fuel cell autos -- and like the A-Class prototype that preceded it in 2004 -- the F-CELL will use compressed hydrogen to help generate current for the vehicle's electric motor. That motor offers 100 kW/136 hp, earning mileage equivalent to 3.3 liters of diesel per 100 km (just over 71 mpg). Like other Euro-market B-Class models, the drivetrain is located in the vehicle's sandwich floor, which protects it and, unlike some other fuel cell models, leaves plenty of room for passengers and trunk storage.
Daimler and Mercedes have also announced plans to develop infrastructure for the F-CELL in the form of hydrogen filling stations. According to the company, Daimler is taking the lead on this endeavor, having entered into arrangements with governments, utility, and oil companies in Hamburg, Stuttgart, and California. That helps verify what American might expect: that the F-CELL will be available in the U.S. in California to start, like its hydrogen fuel cell sibling, the Honda FCX Clarity.
So far, hydrogen infrastructure has been slow to develop in other parts of the country, but if more automakers keep adding fuel cell vehicles to their lineups, maybe that will jump-start a trend. Our only question: what happens to all the charging infrastructure that's rolling out as we speak?