Sustainability transparent: it all depends on the lifecycle

The fuel cell plug-in hybrid Mercedes-Benz GLC F-CELL (combined hydrogen consumption: 0.34 kg/100 km, combined CO₂ emissions: 0 g/km, combined power consumption: 13.7 kWh/100 km)** has successfully passed its 360° environmental check. The results have been comprehensively verified by the TÜV Süd technical service. The environmental check is based on an eco-balance in which the environmental effects of the car are examined over the entire lifecycle.

The Mercedes-Benz development process

Only an analysis of the vehicles' entire lifecycle provides a realistic picture. Mercedes-Benz has been conducting this environmental check regularly since as early as 2005, starting with the S-Class at the time. Depending on the segment, Mercedes-Benz bases its calculations on a driving distance of 150,000 to 300,000 kilometres. Thanks to emission-free driving, electric vehicles can compensate for a large part of the additional CO2 emissions they initially cause. If it is possible to operate electric vehicles using only renewable energy, the CO2 emissions over the entire lifecycle fall by 70 percent compared with combustion-engine vehicles. The same applies to fuel cell vehicles, which give rise to more emissions in production but slightly fewer than batter vehicles in operation, and where the supply of hydrogen has a major influence on the overall effect.

However, the 360° environmental check is not only about CO2 emissions. In order to gauge a vehicle's environmental compatibility, the experts consider all emissions and the use of resources over the entire lifecycle. This is achieved by means of an eco-balance that records the key environmental impacts. It includes the extraction of raw materials – the use of platinum in the fuel cell has been reduced by 90 percent compared to the B-Class F-CELL – production and use, and finally recycling. Development of the components in the new powertrain was accompanied by concepts for eventual recycling. This means that as with every other Mercedes-Benz, a high level of recyclability is also assured for the GLC F-CELL.

The materials composition of the GLC F-CELL (kerb weight: 2050 kg)

Different CO₂ scenarios depending on the power and hydrogen source

As in all electric vehicles, how the necessary power is generated is also the decisive factor for the Mercedes-Benz GLC F CELL: 100 percent renewable, e.g. hydroelectric power, or e.g. in the EU power mix . The same question arises with respect to the generation of hydrogen: the scenarios considered in the eco-balance are reformation from natural gas, the so-called H2 mobility scenario (50 % regenerative, 50 % from natural gas), and 100 percent generation of hydrogen from electrolysis using hydroelectric power.

The eco-balance, and especially the CO₂ balance, varies accordingly over an entire lifecycle with a mileage of 200,000 kilometres. While the components specific to the GLC F-CELL lead to considerably higher CO₂ emissions during production, these can in part be considerably overcompensated over the use phase, depending on the hydrogen and power source. The CO₂ saving over the entire lifecycle is greatest if the GLC F-CELL is operated exclusively with hydrogen and power from renewable sources. Savings of over 50% are possible compared to the scenario with hydrogen from natural gas and the EU power mix.

CO₂ emissions of the GLC F-CELL compared

The GLC F-CELL: fuel cell vehicle as a plug-in hybrid

The Mercedes-Benz GLC F-CELL is unique worldwide, as it features both fuel cells and a battery drive which can be charged externally using plug-in technology. Apart from electricity, it also runs on pure hydrogen.

This has a number of advantages:

  • Within three minutes at a hydrogen filling station, the full operating range of over 400 km is available again.
  • The battery provides a further 50 km or so of range.
  • On downhill stretches and when braking, kinetic energy can be stored in the battery (recuperation).
  • The battery provides additional power for brisk acceleration.
  • Power from purely renewable sources can be used when charging the battery at a power socket.

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