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Published on July 13th, 2016 | by James Ayre


Early Adopter Of Mercedes Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Vehicle: My Experiences With The Car Were Sobering

July 13th, 2016 by  

Here at CleanTechnica we’ve long taken a somewhat skeptical view of hydrogen-fuel-cell vehicles. For the most part, such vehicles have never seemed to make any kind of sense economically or practically (for general use, not niche use) when the numbers are looked into.

That’s all well and good, but the truth is that numbers simply don’t convince most people. Experiences do. With that in mind, one of the first adopters of the Mercedes-Benz B-Class F-Cell — a small hydrogen fuel-cell hatchback sold in Germany — recently recounted his experiences with the vehicle over the last few years.

Notably, the driver in question, David Wenger, was actually the head of a 19-person firm that was involved in the development of the model’s powertrain — so his thoughts on the vehicle are probably particularly worth considering.

Mercedes b-class f-cell tourer

While Wenger’s comments largely echo what many recent buyers and lessees of Toyota Mirais and Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell vehicles in the US have been saying, there are some differences — mostly owing to the fact that he made leases on the car available to his employees, a few of which took him up on the matter.

So, getting to it, what’s his overall takeaway of the experience? He put it this way: “In total, the results are sobering, sadly. That really hurts.”

Green Car Reports continues in its coverage, noting that “Wenger and his employees found that fueling infrastructure proved a challenge. Stations that showed as online on a phone app sometimes proved inoperable when the driver arrived. In one case, it turned out that an inexperienced user had pressed the Emergency Stop button by mistake, but that did not change the station’s status in the app.”

Probably considerably more important, though, was the fact that “the hydrogen car’s total travel range was considerably shorter than that of diesel cars in the company’s fleet — requiring two fuel stops when none was needed in the diesel. Planning a stop at the nearest hydrogen fueling station could add half an hour to a trip, one employee said.”

Wenger noted that performance itself was fine, though certainly not that of a sports car (or battery-electric SUV). The main issues seemed to be related to range and practicality.

Another point worth mentioning here is how expensive it is to develop a hydrogen-fuel-cell refueling station, which reportedly costs $500,000 to $5,000,000 for the equipment alone. Developing a full nationwide network would likely be cost prohibitive even for companies like Mercedes and Toyota.

Naturally, this is all about the consumer side of things, but there’s also the hydrogen cars are dirtier (“well to wheels“) than conventional hybrids like the Toyota Prius, not to mention much cleaner battery-electric cars.

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About the Author

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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