From the automobile exhibition “Auto Shanghai” the three Mercedes-Benz B-Class F-CELL cars set off on their journey through China, which took them to the capital Beijing on 24 April. With this leg, the final and longest leg of the F-CELL World Drive began:

all in all, the fuel cell powered cars will each absolve around 9000 kilometres until they again reach European soil in Russia 20 days later. From there the tour will start its homeward journey to Germany via Scandinavia. Before setting off from Shanghai, the F-CELL World Drive had already travelled half the globe: since its start at the end of January the tour successfully crossed southern Europe, North America and Australia.

In Beijing, where the tour arrived on 24 April, Daimler AG was already active in the field of fuel cell technology some years ago: from 2005 to 2007, as part of the HyFLEET:CUTE STEP project, Mercedes-Benz Citaro fuel cell buses covered more than 92,000 kilometres in Beijing’s public urban transport system. Mercedes-Benz now used the B-Class F-CELL to demonstrate the progress achieved since then, in the course of an event for local political representatives in Beijing on 25 April.

Right across Asia and Europe in 41 days
Within a 41-day period, the F-CELL World Drive will cross two continents and seven countries on the last leg of its round-the-world tour. During this journey, the “green” B-Class F-CELL cars will not only capture attention in China, but also in Kazakhstan, Russia, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Germany, as in addition to the driving days, local events are planned in each of these countries with the aim of giving fuel cell technology wide public exposure. In early June the tour will come to an end at its starting and finishing point in Stuttgart.

This unique round-the-world tour not only marks the 125th anniversary of the automobile, but also the anniversary of fuel cell development at Daimler. It was exactly 20 years ago, in 1991, that Daimler commenced its activities in this field. The fruits of this early commitment are apparent today: the B-Class F-CELL is the first fuel cell powered series production vehicle by Mercedes-Benz.

Fuel cell development at Daimler: from then until now
Daimler AG started on the development of fuel cell technology in 1991 and soon achieved first successes: just three years after development started, Daimler presented the NECAR 1, its first operational fuel cell powered vehicle. However, at that time, the fuel cell system still occupied the entire load compartment of the van. In 1996, with the NECAR 2, Daimler succeeded in presenting a vehicle which was far more suitable for everyday-use. From 2002 onwards the Mercedes-Benz A-Class was used as the basis for fuel cell vehicles. The near-series A-Class F-CELL then entered practical trials in daily operation with customers in Singapore, Japan, the USA and Germany from 2004.

Today, 20 years and 6 evolutionary stages after the start of fuel cell development at Daimler, three B-Class F-CELL cars assembled under series production conditions are on a locally emission-free round-the-world tour. “Of course we also follow our maxim “the best or nothing” when it comes to fuel cell development,” says Dr. Thomas Weber, the Daimler AG Board Member responsible for Group Research and Development for Mercedes-Benz Cars. “The B-Class F-CELL provides locally emission-free mobility without compromises, and is therefore a Mercedes that meets the expectations of our customers.”

The fuel cell: a technology full of possibilities
As development progressed, the various possibilities of use of fuel cell technology in a wide range of different vehicle concepts proved to be an advantage. Daimler recognised this at an early stage: In addition to the NECAR fuel cell vehicles, the Stuttgart-based company already developed the NEBUS in 1997, which proved its operational capability in urban public transport system in six cities around the world.

Particularly in city traffic, emission-free mobility solutions are indispensable for the achievement of high air quality in the near future. The NEBUS already showed that the fuel cell is an alternative to the internal combustion engine, and that in city traffic it suitably complements battery-electric vehicles. Further development of fuel cell technology was therefore systematically continued for buses as well. From 2003 to 2006 this application was again subjected to extensive testing as part of the CUTE fleet trials and other, associated projects. During this period, 36 fuel cell powered.

Mercedes-Benz Citaro buses performed successfully with twelve transport operators on three continents. Test cities selected at the time, Barcelona, Madrid, Perth, Peking, Stockholm, Stuttgart and Hamburg, are also on the route of the F-CELL World Drive. Furthermore, the technology is suitable for distribution operations as well: in 2001 it was used in a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter for the first time, covering 60,000 kilometres in everyday customer trials.

By 2007 Daimler AG was the company with the most experience in the field of fuel cell technology, with more than 100 vehicles in customer hands worldwide and more than 3 million locally emission-free kilometres covered. Today the total distance absolved exceeds 5 million kilometres.

Mercedes-Benz F-CELL World Drive
During the F-CELL World Drive, three Mercedes-Benz B-Class F-CELL vehicles are passing through 14 countries and 4 continents – to drive around the globe once. Organised by Mercedes-Benz, the circumnavigation of the world started one day after its symbolic start on 29 January and is scheduled to last 125 days, until the vehicles return to Stuttgart again at the beginning of June, after covering a distance of some 30,000 kilometres. The aim of the tour is to demonstrate the technical maturity and suitability for everyday use of electric vehicles with fuel cells, and at the same time highlight the need for a comprehensive hydrogen infrastructure. The Stuttgart-based automotive manufacturer is being supported on the tour by Linde AG, which is responsible for supplying the hydrogen.

Source: Daimler AG