On 25 February the F-CELL World Drive embarked on the second leg of its tour when three striking green B-Class F-CELL set out from Fort Lauderdale on the East Coast of the USA on their first North American leg towards New Orleans. In total, the vehicles will be covering around 7500 kilometres in the USA and Canada, after which they will leave via Seattle to continue their journey to Australia. So far the F-CELL World Drive has already clocked up more than 3600 km on the roads of Europe.

The F-CELL World Drive will be travelling across the North American continent until 18 March, demonstrating the potential of fuel cell technology. In addition, with what is to date a unique undertaking, Mercedes-Benz is reaffirming the need to develop a comprehensive global hydrogen infrastructure. “We will have reached market maturity with fuel cell technology by 2015 at the latest. From that point we would then be in a position to bring several 100,000 vehicles, in a variety of different model series, onto the roads. For example we are also planning a saloon model with fuel cell drive and will thereby expand our portfolio of local zero-emission vehicles. Therefore, by that time, an infrastructure which allows the everyday operation of such vehicles, needs to be in place.”, according to Dr. Thomas Weber, the Daimler AG Board Member responsible for Group Research and Development for Mercedes-Benz Cars. “Now is therefore the time to increase speed and consistently develop the hydrogen filling station network.”

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Local zero-emission motoring from Miami to Seattle
The second leg of the F-CELL World Drive is taking the three fuel cell vehicles across the North American continent, from Miami right across the USA and as far as Vancouver in Canada. The route then continues by airplane from Seattle to Australia. In doing so, the journey will also highlight the gaps in the American hydrogen infrastructure. By the end of the USA tour the B-Class F-CELL vehicles will have been refuelled around 35 times during 18 legs – but only one time will be at a public hydrogen filling station in Torrance, Los Angeles.

During the tour, the striking green paint finish of the B-Class F-CELL vehicles, which already caused a sensation at the Detroit Motor Show, isn’t the only feature raising attention to the tour. Local events in San Francisco, Sacramento, Salem and Vancouver will also provide the opportunity for an intensive exchange of ideas with local media, visitors and residents on the subject of fuel cell technology.

During this leg of the trip, which is scheduled to take roughly three weeks, participants can expect to enjoy a varied programme providing not only extensive opportunity to experience the B-Class F-CELL, but also interesting information on the topic of sustainable mobility. On 1 March the tour already paid a visit to the Daimler car2go mobility project in Austin, Texas. The next item of the agenda, due to take place on 10 March, is an intensive exchange on the topic of electric mobility at Tesla Motors in Palo Alto. Tesla designs and builds high performance electric cars and supplies powertrain components to leading OEMs. Tesla makes the lithium-ion battery and charger for Daimler’s smart fortwo electric drive and the Mercedes-Benz A-Class E-CELL. In Vancouver the participants will then be the guests of the Automotive Fuel Cell Cooperation (AFCC). This is where the fuel cell stack for the B-Class F-CELL, for example, was developed in close cooperation with Daimler research and development staff from Germany. The company was established in 2007, with Daimler as the majority shareholder (50.1 percent). In addition, while in Vancouver the F-CELL World Drive will also meet up with adventurer and explorer Mike Horn and his PANGAEA Expedition, for which Mercedes-Benz is the main sponsor. The PANGAEA Expedition’s sailing ship has been visiting all of the continents, including both the North and South Pole, since October 2008. Together with young people from all over the world, expedition leader Mike Horn is setting up ecological and social projects on his trip around the world.

Heading through Europe with hydrogen in tow
Prior to setting off in the USA, the vehicles already proved themselves on a route covering more than 3000 kilometres through Southern Europe. The symbolic starting shot for the tour actually sounded on 29 January during the official ceremony to mark the 125th anniversary of the motor car, after which, just one day later, the B-Class F-CELL vehicles set out on the first stage to Paris. After this they made for the Portuguese capital of Lisbon, driving via France and Spain.

The initial kilometres of the unique world tour have already displayed the need for action in terms of the provision of hydrogen. The accompanying participants from the USA and China discovered that even a fuel cell vehicle such as the B-Class F-CELL can provide an enjoyable and dynamic driving experience as well as high cruising speeds: On the German motorways they kept the vehicles at a speed of 170 km/h. The consequences of this style of driving became apparent later, however, when it was discovered that the tanks of two of the three vehicles were empty approx. 40 kilometres before the scheduled fuel stop. This resulted in the realisation that, even with a fuel cell vehicle, driving fast results in increased consumption, and that all drivers can cover longer local zero-emission motoring distances by adopting an economical driving style. On subsequent legs, the real goal of the participants was to achieve as low a consumption as possible by adopting an appropriate driving style at comfortable speeds. As part of this, one of the drivers even managed to better an NEDC-certified (New European Driving Cycle) value equivalent to 3.3 litres of fuel (diesel equivalent) per 100 kilometres, resulting in a range of 380 km.

For Mercedes-Benz, these initial problems most notably reflect the need for action when it comes to the provision of hydrogen. The refuelling situation on the F-CELL World Drive underpins this issue. At the start in Stuttgart, the vehicles could still be refuelled at the public hydrogen filling station of OMV. However, up until the preliminary leg destination of Lisbon, the vehicles had to resort to alternatives, such as the mobile refuelling vehicle developed specifically for the tour. This was developed in conjunction with Linde AG, which is also guaranteeing the supply of hydrogen for the entire world tour, something which represents a significant challenge since the hydrogen has to be made available at each of the refuelling stops at the right time, in the right quantity and with the necessary degree of purity.

Despite the partial difficult conditions – which a trip around the world brings along with it – after extensive test drives it has become apparent to the participants of the tour that the B-Class F-CELL is highly suited to everyday use. Furthermore, as determined at a routine evening check in Lyon, even animals such as the pine marten are keen on the technology too. Two small holes in the cooling and heating hoses, caused by the teeth of the predators, were the fuel cell vehicle’s first small issues requiring repair.

Source: Daimler AG