Mercedes-Benz B-Class F-CELL Helps to Guide Aircraft

Words John Clark | August 15, 2011
Stuttgart is the first German airport to use a fuel cell-powered electric car as a “follow me” vehicle
Words John Clark August 15, 2011

In Stuttgart, the Mercedes-Benz B-Class F-CELL helps to guide aircraft around the runways. With an output of 136 hp and a top speed of 105 mph, it is locally emission-free and thus a true leader in its field, and not only of the planes on the airport. At the hydrogen filling station that was opened on the airport campus in 2009, the “follow me” vehicle can be refuelled with hydrogen in less than three minutes, giving it a range of around 400 kilometres. “So, as you can see, we are keeping up with the latest technological developments in ground-based drive systems”, commented Walter Schoefer, Managing Director of the company operating the airport, Flughafen Stuttgart GmbH.

The everyday viability and technical maturity of fuel cell-powered electric vehicles was put to the test by Mercedes-Benz only recently in its F-CELL World Drive. Between late January and early June, three Mercedes-Benz B-Class F‑CELL vehicles drove around the world – covering a distance of more than 30,000 kilometres across four continents and through 14 countries. With this circumnavigation of the globe, Daimler was also able to draw attention to the need for a broad-based hydrogen infrastructure. As a catalyst for this process, the company will therefore be working with Linde AG to establish an initial 20 hydrogen refuelling stations.

The B-Class F-CELL: the latest generation of fuel cell-powered electric vehicles

At the heart of the B-Class F‑CELL is the new generation of a fuel cell-powered electric drive system, which is compact, powerful, safe and absolutely practical for everyday use. The fuel cell generates the electricity needed for driving through a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen – within the vehicle itself. With a range of around 400 kilometres and fast refuelling times, the Mercedes-Benz B-Class F-CELL combines locally emission-free mobility with complete viability over long distances and impressive performance. In the process it produces no pollutant emissions whatsoever, just pure water. The 100 kW/136 hp electric motor in the current B‑Class F-CELL gives it effortless torque of 290 Nm right from the very first turn of the key, ensuring fun at the wheel and driving dynamics on a par with those of a 2.0-litre petrol engine. And with all this, the B-Class F-CELL achieves the equivalent of an NEDC consumption figure (New European Drive Cycle) of 3.3 litres of fuel (diesel equivalent) per 100 kilometres.

When the brakes are applied, or even as soon as the driver takes his or her foot off the accelerator, the electric motor uses a recuperation process to convert kinetic energy into electric energy, which is then stored in the battery. During manoeuvring or over short distances the electric drive motor takes its power from the battery. Should the capacity of the energy accumulator prove insufficient, the fuel cell is automatically activated. The decision as to whether the electricity is taken from the lithium-ion battery, the fuel cell or from a combination of both is determined by the intelligent drive management system according to what is most efficient and most beneficial to the customer.