The time has come. Development of the GLC F-CELL is complete after almost three years and the vehicle is sold to its first customers. Was there a moment in the development phase you would never forget?
That would be, for example, “the steam cloud”. Our test drivers were actually spoken to on the street: “There’s smoke beneath the car!” Look, something is not right. Take a look“. . . This happens because Locally, a hydrogen car is totally free of emissions. It only produces water vapor. This is why we have an extractor fan in the GLC F-CELL instead of an exhaust system. This ends beneath the car. Depending on the weather conditions, this may result in a cloud of steam beneath the vehicle. During test drives this initially led to confusion amongst other drivers who saw it and wanted to help out. We learned from this and amended the vehicle as a result.
The cloud of steam beneath the vehicle is now a thing of the past. It’s surely not the only fea-ture of the GLC F-CELL?
No, of course not. What makes the GLC F-CELL so special is that it’s based on two energy sources: a battery and a fuel cell. We integrated both into the existing bodywork of the normal GLC. Compared to cars powered by electrical batteries such as the EQC 400 4MATIC (combined power consumption: 20.8-19.7 kWh/100 km; CO2 emissions combined 0 g/km)** there was no need to create a new vehicle plat-form. We could work with an existing format. However, we have used the construction space differently compared to the B-Class F-CELL. Everything was hidden beneath a double floor in that vehicle. Everything is now much more compact and fits into the GLC F-CELL’s engine compartment. In the future, this development may also be used in other vehicles with the fuel cell.
What benefits does the combination of a plug-in battery and a fuel cell offer compared to a purely electric Mercedes?
Safety and flexibility - even over long distances. The fuel cell makes quick refueling possible. Refueling lasts around three minutes. The journey can then continue. The fuel cell avoids long battery charging times. For example, if I want to drive the GLC F-CELL from Stuttgart to Hamburg today, I only need to refuel once despite the distance of 600 km. In principle it’s the same as with a combustion engine. The car does not slow the driver down. The additional battery nevertheless provides a degree of security. It is sufficient for roughly 50 km of purely electric driving and can help if there are no hydrogen refueling points around.
It’s said that electric vehicles are not as clean as their reputation suggests? What do you mean?
Considering the entire life cycle of the vehicle provides a more realistic picture. Due to emission-free travel, electric vehicles can play a major part in compensating for any initial CO₂ emissions which have been accrued. If efforts to run electric vehicles on only regenerative energies are successful, then CO₂ emissions across the entire life cycle fall by up to 70 per cent compared to combustion engines. This also applies to fuel cell vehicles, which result in fewer emissions during production but do cause somewhat more emissions than battery-powered vehicles whilst driving, where provision of hydrogen also has a major influence on the fundamental effect.
The new 360° environmental check brochure also covers the use of resources in the GLC F-CELL – can progress be achieved here?
We have continued to develop the fuel cell and completely revised the design. For example, we have been able to reduce the platinum used in the circuit boards by 90 per cent compared to their predecessors. We now use less precious metal and safeguard this resource - without compromising anything on performance.
What is a 360° environmental check?
The environmental impact of Mercedes-Benz vehicles are documented in externally verified environmental statements. Comprehensive information regarding consumption, emissions, ecological footprint, as well as the use of sustainable raw materials and recycled materials are provided here.
It was not possible to reduce resource consumption in all areas. In total, it is somewhat higher compared to, for example, the GLC. Why?
The total weight of the vehicle is actually higher, resulting in higher resource consumption. This initially appears puzzling when realizing that we have taken out the engine and the transmission. However, these were replaced with a fuel cell and a battery. They are also heavy. As the technology is new, we cannot yet focus on shaving off every last scrap of weight.
Another element also plays a large part: The hydrogen tanks are protected using tubular stainless steel frames - a very solid design. Our solution is heavy, but robust and durable as a result. Ultimately, Mercedes-Benz stands for safety and we will live up to this even with new technologies.
On average, 95 per cent of a GLC can be recycled. Does this also apply to the GLC F-CELL?
Around 90 per cent of the parts are identical with those in a conventional GLC. Recycling concepts were worked out as a developmental aid for components of the new drive train. This ensures that the GLC F-CELL is highly recyclable.
What tips would you give GLC F-CELL drivers in order to drive in a particularly environmentally friendly manner?
I recommend active use of the plug-in. In hybrid mode, where the vehicle itself decides on the mix of energy from the fuel cell and purely electrical energy, the battery will always remain approximately half-full to give the driver a sense of security. When I am on the way home and only have around 15 km to travel, then I can actively switch off the fuel cell and let the battery run down. This enables the most to be gained in terms of energy efficiency. This tip applies more for drivers with the option of charging their car up at home and are able to ensure that they only use green electricity. It also depends on driving behavior. In principle there is no difference to a combustion engine. Those who drive cautiously, avoids Stop&Go, and does not go at top speed is at a clear advantage with regard to resource consumption. The biggest variable is, and always was, the driver himself.
To a certain extent everything remains the same?
It is certainly the case in this aspect. It also otherwise feels like a Mercedes. During driving, it is impossible to tell whether the energy is coming from the battery or the fuel cell. That is very well coordinated. We’re cruising with the GLC F-CELL into an emission-free future - without sacrificing anything with re-gards to driving enjoyment and comfort.