The Tokyo Motor Show in October 2005 was the venue for a premiere in progressive technology: Mercedes-Benz presented the F 600 HYGENIUS research car. With this car, the company took a significant step forward in that it not only incorporated a further developed fuel cell drive system but was also a car specially designed for the fuel cell, rather than being installed in the existing bodywork of a large-scale production vehicle. Dr. Thomas Weber: “We are thus taking a big step ahead on the way to a fuel cell system that is ready for the market. This is a goal we are set to reach between 2012 and 2015.” The F 600 HYGENIUS sounds a clear signal.
The engineers have reduced the size of the fuel cell by some 40 percent; in spite of this it operates more efficiently today and boasts good cold-start ability. This is achieved with newly developed fuel cell stacks, an electric turbocharger and a new humidifying and dehumidifying system. With a peak output of 86 kW, the F 600 HYGENIUS develops a maximum torque of 350 Newton meters. The continuous output of the fuel cell drive is 60 kW at a torque of 250 Newton meters. Energy not required is stored in a lithium-ion battery. Energy consumption is equivalent to 2.9 liters of diesel fuel per 100 kilometers (81.11 mpg). When required, the F 600 HYGENIUS can also be used as a mobile power generator: its electric output of 66 kW would suffice to supply several detached houses with electricity.
Important experiences on the way to production standards
In May 2006, the test fleet of over 100 fuel cell vehicles beat the magic mark of two million kilometers (1.24 million miles) covered overall. The 60 A-Class F-Cell cars accumulated over 705,000 kilometers (437,800 miles) in 21,600 operating hours. The fleet of 36 buses covered 1.25 million kilometers (776,250 miles) in just under 86,000 operating hours, and the fuel-cell-powered Sprinter vans had clocked up 58,000 kilometers (36,000 miles) in almost 2,200 operating hours. “Worldwide fleet testing is in full swing and with two million kilometers covered supplies valuable experience and findings for the ongoing development of the zero-emission fuel cell drive,” says Prof. Dr. Herbert Kohler, head of Group Research and Advanced Vehicle and Powertrain Engineering, as well as the Group’s Chief Environmental Officer.
Fire-fighting and police cars with fuel cell drive
The first fuel-cell-powered car for use in fire-fighting was put into service in January 2007 when DaimlerChrysler handed over a Mercedes-Benz A-Class F-Cell car to the fire brigade of Sacramento, California, where it will be used as an operations control car. A little earlier, DaimlerChrysler had already made a fuel cell patrol car available to the police of Wayne State University in Michigan. These two cars are thus the world’s first special-service vehicles with the future-oriented fuel cell technology.
Automotive Fuel Cell Cooperation
In November 2007, Ballard Power Systems transferred its division for automotive fuel cell applications to the new company “Automotive Fuel Cell Cooperation”. With a share of 50.1 percent, Daimler AG is the majority stake holder. Ford holds 30 percent and Ballard as finance investor the remaining 19.9 percent. In return, Daimler AG retransferred its total stake in Ballard. In the Automotive Fuel Cell Cooperation, the three companies want to expand their globally leading position in automotive fuel cell applications and prepare the large-scale production of fuel cell cars. Ballard Power Systems will in future concentrate on the marketing of stationary fuel cell applications.
From the very start of development work, Daimler AG has invested almost one billion euros in the research into, and development of, fuel cell vehicles. No other manufacturer has been able to collect more data and experience from some three million kilometers (1.8 million miles) covered with zero emissions to date. The company is thus coming closer and closer to its goal of large-scale production of fuel cell vehicles. When will the fuel cell be ready for production? A precise point in time has not yet been defined but each research car of Daimler AG and each development in this field are steps in this direction.