A-Class with fuel-cell drive system undergoes practical testing
Zero-emission fuel-cell drive system
Pioneering drive-system technology on course for market launch
65 kW electric motor and 140 km/h top speed
Tokyo, Oct 22, 2003
The vision of Mercedes engineers for the vehicle drive system of the future is centred around fuel cells, and they have been working closely with their colleagues at DaimlerChrysler Research since the early 1990s to make this vision a reality. Their work has already yielded some notable advances. DaimlerChrysler is a pioneer in the development of fuel cell technology and has demonstrated the feasibility of this ground-breaking drive principle in a total of some 20 prototypes. Since the early days, both the size and weight of the drive unit has been dramatically reduced and the performance of the vehicles consistently improved.
The fuel-cell drive system graduated from its apprenticeship as a pure research project in early 2003 and vehicles with the new technology are already being built in close-to-series production. Based on the Mercedes-Benz A-Class, the innovative new variant bears the extra designation “Fuel Cell”. A total of 60 A-Class Fuel Cell vehicles will take part in a practical testing programme from the end of 2003 with Mercedes customers in the USA, Europe, Japan and Singapore. With this move, Mercedes-Benz has given the green light for the development of this pioneering new drive-system technology for market launch. The A-Class Fuel Cell runs on pure hydrogen, which the fuel cell then uses to create electrical energy through a chemical reaction with oxygen. This energy, in turn, drives an electric motor, making the A-Class Fuel Cell a zero-emission vehicle.
A 65 kW electric motor accelerates the A-Class to a 140 km/h top speed
The whole fuel cell system is accommodated in the sandwich floor construction of the A-Class with long wheelbase. The car’s fuel tanks contain hydrogen compressed under 350-bar pressure and give the A-Class Fuel Cell an operating range of some 150 kilometres. Hydrogen consumption is equivalent to 4.2 litres of diesel per 100 kilometres.
The electric motor generates 65 kW, accelerating the compact Mercedes from 0 to 100 km/h in 16 seconds and on to a maximum speed of 140 km/h – enough power to equip the Fuel Cell for everyday conditions out on the road.
Much development work remains before the Fuel Cell can be made available to the wider public, but this responsibility cannot be shouldered by a vehicle manufacturer alone. If fuel-cell drive systems are to come onto the market in the foreseeable future, Mercedes-Benz engineers insist that the question of fuel and the supply infrastructure first has to be addressed by a global initiative bringing together politicians, the mineral oil industry and the energy sector. Plus, the development engineers themselves still have a number of challenges to overcome, not least as far as further reductions in weight and cost, as well as improvements in reliability and service life, are concerned.