Mercedes will be the first company to market with a commercially available fuel-cell car in 2014, but has yet to decide on production volumes, how the car will be distributed or future escalation of the project, says Vice-President of Research and Development Prof Dr Herbert Kohler.
“These are the questions on the table internally,” he said. “We are planning how far we should go. It depends on what kind of collaboration we have in the future.” The B-Class F-CELL, based on Mercedes’ latest front-wheel-drive five-door compact, is the model chosen to spearhead the move towards hydrogen-fuelled cars.
Kohler says that whatever the decision, greater electrification of the car has shifted from being desirable to becoming necessary to meet future emissions legislation. The EU is proposing to follow its demand for average CO2 emissions of 130g/km in 2015 with a 95g/km target in 2020.
“We are still in negotiations with the EU authorities, but we will need those cars to meet such a target,” said Kohler.
“On our first analysis five or six years ago we thought we would need to have a lot of zero-emissions cars on the market to meet 130g/km, but that turned out not to be the case because of improvements with internal combustion engines.
“But with the perspective being put forward for 2020 we will need additional zero (emissions) vehicles. The right way to do this is to start now and find out all the pros and cons and experiences of customers so that we can make the right choice.”
One obstacle that might have to be overcome, he believes, is initial customer acceptance. “Look at start/stop. A lot of customers are saying they are not comfortable with it. They are suspicious because they are not comfortable that they will be able to restart,” he said.
“It is nothing to do with reliability. It is the technology. There were the same concerns with the range of electric vehicles at first, but after one year customers had got used to it and it was down to fourth or fifth of their concerns and not a big problem.”