Mercedes Reveals Fuel Cell Electric-Drive Van

JUL 15 2018 BY MARK KANE 17

Mercedes-Benz unveiled probably a first of its kind – a motorhome powered by hydrogen fuel cells – to address the need of long-distance travel.

The Concept Sprinter F-CELL for now is just a concept, much like the GLC F-CELL SUV.  But most importantly to us is that both of these vehicles are actually plug ins, with 30 km (19 miles) of all-electric range.

Three hydrogen tanks that store 4.5 kg of hydrogen (a little less than 5 kg in Toyota Mirai) enable it to drive around 300 km (186 miles), but there is space for one more tank if the customer would like to increase the range to 500 km (310 miles).

The electric motor is rated for 147 kW and 350 Nm.

With an all-electric eSprinter announced for 2019, the hydrogen concept probably will not get a shot at production, but that all depends on the progress in battery technology and battery prices.

Mercedes-Benz Concept Sprinter F-CELL
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Mercedes-Benz Concept Sprinter F-CELL Mercedes-Benz Concept Sprinter F-CELL Mercedes-Benz Concept Sprinter F-CELL Mercedes-Benz Concept Sprinter F-CELL Mercedes-Benz Concept Sprinter F-CELL Mercedes-Benz Concept Sprinter F-CELL Mercedes-Benz Concept Sprinter F-CELL Mercedes-Benz eVito, eSprinter and Concept Sprinter F-CELL Mercedes-Benz eVito, eSprinter and Concept Sprinter F-CELL Mercedes-Benz Concept Sprinter F-CELL Mercedes-Benz Concept Sprinter F-CELL Mercedes-Benz Concept Sprinter F-CELL Mercedes-Benz Concept Sprinter F-CELLeDrive@VANs next level Hamburg 2018

Mercedes-Benz Concept Sprinter F-CELL

“Mercedes-Benz Vans is set to enhance the eDrive@VANs strategy with the fuel cell. Using the example of a semi-integrated motorhome, the Concept Sprinter F-CELL illustrates the full breadth of the characteristic benefits of a fuel cell from long range to zero-local-emissions mobility. Aside from motorhomes, these are characteristics also perfectly suited for commercial purposes such as longer courier routes or minibuses in inter-urban traffic. When it comes to selecting the right powertrain concept, Mercedes-Benz Vans is thus focusing even more on the individual application, making it more customer dependent than ever. Aside from the vehicle technology, a comprehensive evaluation must take into account system weight, charging or refuelling time, range and economy. Classic internal combustion engine, battery-electric drive or forward-looking fuel cell? The Daimler strategy does not provide a dogmatic, ideological answer to this question but instead makes it dependent upon the best possible customer benefits.

Market potential for commercial use

“We will offer every commercial range with an electric drive – starting this year with the eVito and in 2019 with the eSprinter. With these, we will already cover many, but not all, use cases with a zero-local-emissions powertrain. For this reason, we are enhancing our eDrive@VANs strategy with fuel-cell drive, which offers substantial medium-term opportunities, especially in long-distance operation – regardless of whether a fuel-cell vehicle is used as a motorhome or in other commercial applications”, says Volker Mornhinweg, Head of Mercedes-Benz Vans. “The potential of this technology is undisputed. That applies above all to comparatively large vans with a need for long range and short refuelling times. Our analyses demonstrate that the fuel cell can represent a sensible expansion of the powertrain line-up in a number of different applications in both the commercial and private arenas. The Concept Sprinter F-CELL provides an insight today into the possibilities of the future”, continues Mornhinweg.

Daimler is among the pioneers in fuel-cell technology. The most recent development level was presented to the public at the 2017 Frankfurt International Motor Show – the mid-size Mercedes-Benz GLC F-CELL SUV with an innovative combination of fuel cell and battery-electric drive configured as a plug-in hybrid.

Technology showcase with rear-wheel drive

The intelligent interaction of battery and fuel cell drives in the Concept Sprinter F-CELL delivers an electric output of around 147 kW and torque of 350 newton metres. The three tanks in the substructure can store a total of 4.5 kilograms of hydrogen, enough for a range of around 300 kilometres. If a longer range is required for a specific use, the hydrogen tanks integrated into the vehicle underbody can be supplemented by another in the rear. This configuration lifts the range to as much as 500 kilometres. Like the GLC F-CELL, the Concept Sprinter F-CELL also combines innovative fuel cell and battery technology to create a plug-in hybrid. Alongside hydrogen, it can also be “ refuelled” with electricity, raising the range by up to 30 kilometres.

The basis for almost unlimited configuration options

The integration of the hydrogen tank in the substructure, the positioning of the fuel cell at the front of the vehicle and the rear-wheel drive create the basis for maximum interior design freedom. With a standalone energy supply for the living quarters or longer range, the technology showcase makes full use of its merits as a travel companion or, in other applications, as a spacious load carrier.

The structure of the Concept Sprinter F-CELL with rear-wheel drive and a comparably low system weight creates the greatest possible flexibility for additional bodies and conversions or for commercial use with higher payload. The modular system means the fuel cell can establish itself as an alternative to conventional and battery-electric drives for use on shorter routes in as many use cases as possible.”

Categories: Daimler, Mercedes

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17 Comments on "Mercedes Reveals Fuel Cell Electric-Drive Van"

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RVs are tough in that every cubic meter of extra space in ICE versions is already used by the owner for cargo: grills, coolers, toilet paper, etc. They also need a lot of power. It’s why you don’t see any hybrid RVs despite their terrible fuel economy. Sprinters are naturally small, though, so that market cares a bit less about space.

Japan has about one hundred H2 stations; Germany has about forty, and in CA one can drive from San Diego all the way to Tahoe.

I wish the hydrogen concept would hurry up and die! Half the energy efficiency and twice the cost of BEVs. The fact that as a taxpayer I have to pay for these two million dollar fueling stations burns me.

I’m sure there will be more fuel cell vehicles during the next 10 years, for sure.
It may be a solution for situations where a normal EV design will not work, or be too expensive.
.. but I think it will be a highly limmited market.

Some RVs may have a use for this. It is easier to charge an EV or fill up an ICE RV now. That may change in the future, but I think for the volume market RVs will in most cases be electric.
Not the comming generation of Mercedes Sprinter size vans, that is the base of many RVs – but the next will probably offer a totaly new design – where the range is a small problem (and a better charging infrastructure will deal with the rest).
I think if you have an RV that can travel 500km ++, and be able to charge pretty fast will have what it needs to be a volume seller. .. and for those that pay, they can pay for more range.
Just have to keep under 3500kg for most people, with passengers and luggage.

The problem is that right now, fuel cells+tanks are *much more* expensive than batteries. And if there is only a limited market, as you say, there is little hope for costs ever coming down enough to compete with batteries. Indeed they might not come down enough even if there was a mass market, going by some estimations…

That’s a pretty negative view. I am personally very optimistic, based on the marginal costs of fuel cells. An EV with twice the range of another will contain a battery which costs and weighs twice as much. That’s not true for a fuel cell vehicle, where additional storage volume is rather cheap. That, combined with essentially free hydrogen from solar as well as fast refueling times, may end up compelling.

Unfortunately, “rather cheap” is not quite true: the hydrogen tanks are actually shockingly expensive. Optimistic estimates say they might fall to 25 $/kWh in the long run, which would be hard for Li-Ion batteries to undercut (but might be possible with novel chemistries); however, such a price drop is not certain at all.

What’s more, the fuel cell stacks themselves are so expensive, that they generally far outweigh the marginal cost of storage — especially if you want good performance. (Marginal cost of fuel cells is more or less proportional to power output.)

The costs *might* perhaps pan out for applications that need very long ranges, such as ocean-going vessels — but I really can’t think of any other niche where it would make sense. Certainly not road transport.

Oh, and “free hydrogen” is a ruse: the electrolysis cells are so expensive, the hydrogen produced wouldn’t be anywhere near market prices even if the electricity was literally free. Unless there is some really major breakthrough in sustainable hydrogen generation, it will never be competitive on price.

Hyundai reduced the cost on hydrogen fuel cells a LOT, from the previous generation to this.
If they manage the same reduction in the next generation they’re competitive.

I would buy that RV in a heartbeat, but keep in mind that sometimes RVs travel to campsites without power. In that case you need enough range for a round trip, and 500 km, especially in cold and in hilly terrain, isn’t enough for all cases. RV buyers want to buy something that gives them freedom, not take it away,

You haven’t even begun to hear about hydrogen. The industry is booming around the world, particularly in China. The fact that batteries aren’t going to be the only egg in the basket thrills me. Hydrogen is the next big thing- watch what happens.

There will be fuel cell buses and trucks. Long distance and quick fill are advantages.

It’s contestable though whether fuel cells will really have an edge on these criteria in the long run. And even if they did, it’s not likely to be big enough to justify considerably higher prices.

Unsustainable hydrogen from fossil fuels might be booming. Unless we see some *major* technology breakthrough, sustainable hydrogen won’t be competitive, ever.

Ever is a long time, reforming renewable methane at point of use is good.

Yes, but “renewable methane” is the problem. There aren’t just enough sustainable sources of methane available for anything but niche uses in transportation.

so it uses 1.5 litres for 100km’s, its around $17 usd for 1 litre, so about $25 for 100km’s or 60miles. It doesn’t sound like a good deal.
Also only 300km’s range. No excuse not to have the base range same as a normal ICE.

Considering that Daimler thinks the Tesla Semi defies the laws of physics, I’m not surprised they think there would actually be a need for fuel cells in road transport…