2020 Mercedes GLC F-Cell Review: Best Hybrid Alternative
2020 Mercedes GLC F-Cell | In addition to the EQC, Mercedes is launching the GLC F-Cell, which draws its power from hydrogen. This SUV with a fuel cell in combination with a battery pioneered with a completely new hybrid system.
What will be the drive of tomorrow? It would have been an illusion to think that the car manufacturers would vote the violins before answering this question. With regard to the future, (almost) every manufacturer goes his own way. That is just the beauty of this time: the challenges that the automotive industry is facing – or even turning over – give rise to numerous answers and just as many new vehicles with equally innovative and brilliant architectures. One of those newcomers is the EQC, a fully electric SUV based on a GLC chassis. But Mercedes explores different routes towards the ‘zero emission’.
In addition to its fully electric range, the Stuttgart manufacturer is also preparing for the launch – on a small scale and in specific regions – of the 2020 Mercedes GLC F-Cell. This ‘environmentally conscious’ SUV uses a fuel cell to move forward. Mercedes is joining the very select circle of car manufacturers with a hydrogen-powered series vehicle, alongside Hyundai Nexo, Toyota Mirai and Honda (Clarity Fuel Cell). In contrast to this Asian three, the German manufacturer does just a little more than just assemble a fuel cell in his SUV.
2020 Mercedes GLC F-Cell – What changes
the 2020 Mercedes GLC F-Cell combines its fuel cell with a large lithium-ion battery with a capacity of 13.5 kWh gross (and 9.3 kWh net ). Thanks to this extra energy source, the SUV can travel fifty kilometers (51 according to the new mixed European cycle) without consuming one gram of hydrogen. The battery is under the trunk floor. With the 7.2 kW (integrated) charger, the SUV can be charged to a normal wall socket, wall box or ordinary public charging station. The process takes one and a half hour when the battery is completely empty.
Most fuel cells are quite bulky, which limits the functionality of the car. The unit developed by Mercedes (and Ford, see frame), however, is so compact that it fits easily under the hood of the GLC. The new fuel cell would even be more than 30 percent more compact than the one in the B-Class F-Cell (the prototype that was launched in 2010) and also uses the same anchor points as the combustion engine is the ‘normal’ GLC. Mercedes also claims that the amount of platinum used for the production of the fuel cell was even reduced by 90 percent. With a double advantage: not only is the planet’s raw material supply so spared, but the production costs of the system are also limited.
The two hydrogen tanks are incorporated in the floor of the GLC, in a casing of carbon fiber: the first is in the middentunnel and the other under the back seat. Together they can contain up to 4.4 kilograms of hydrogen. Enough to give the SUV of Mercedes a (theoretical) driving range of 478 kilometers, if we can believe the technical data of the car. Actually that does not matter that much, because according to the people of Mercedes it takes barely three minutes to fill up the car with hydrogen. Although we have not been able to check this time ourselves, we can say that refueling with the GLC F-Cell does not have to last much longer than with a petrol or diesel version.
The – asynchronous – electric motor develops capacity of 211 hp and a torque of 365 Nm. It is located above the rear axle, which, by the way, pulls the entire power towards it. Mercedes is not planning to develop a four-wheel drive version: “The 2020 Mercedes GLC F-Cell was designed from the outset as a pure rear wheel drive,” explain the engineers. Its atypical architecture makes it impossible to use the hidden tunnel for some kind of transmission axis. Nor can there be a second electric motor driving the front axle, since the engine compartment is already completely occupied by the fuel cell.
2020 Mercedes GLC F-Cell Performance
Depending on the conditions of use, the driver can make use of the different driving modes offered by the GLC F-Cell. “In concrete terms, he will mainly use the electrical energy stored in the battery for short trips between two charging cycles – usually at home or at work,” as we learn from an engineer from the German company. To facilitate its use, the GLC is equipped with four row profiles. The F-Cell mode maintains the charge level of the high-voltage battery thanks to the energy supplied by the fuel cell. Driving the car almost exclusively with hydrogen is ideal when it is important to keep the electric driving range as large as possible.
In Hybrid driving mode, the GLC uses both energy sources, while in Battery mode it only relies on the energy stored in the high-voltage battery. In the latter case, the fuel cell does not start at all. This driving mode is ideal for small distances between two charging stations. In Charge mode, priority is given to charging the battery, for example when the driver wants to maximize the electric driving range for a hydrogen tanker. Power reserves can also be built up in this mode, for example during mountain breaks or in a dynamic driving style.
Unfortunately, our test with the GLC F-Cell was very short. Yet our acquaintance was enough to assess the relevance of this drive and to label it as particularly successful. Despite its incredibly complex technology, the 2020 Mercedes GLC F-Cell is as easy to drive as any other electric car. Okay, he does not develop as much power and torque as a pure electric model (like the EQC), but the power is immediately available, at the slightest touch of the accelerator. And that is more than enough for those who have the driving style of a good family man. In addition, the undercarriage knows how to smooth out road unevenness remarkably well. With thanks to the pneumatic rear suspension with level control, which also guarantees a limited roll inclination.
2020 Mercedes GLC F-Cell Price
At least not in a first phase. The first specimens of this hydrogen vehicle will appear in the streets of the large German cities that already have a sufficiently large network of charging stations. We are talking about Berlin, Hamburg and Stuttgart. In addition, Mercedes does not intend to sell its hydrogen SUV. The 2020 Mercedes GLC F-Cell will only be available for rent for a fixed period. This allows the manufacturer to better monitor his or her new technology and to avoid the curious eyes of the competition.
One thing is certain: electromobility will not be able to reap success without an adapted infrastructure and a solid network. Everywhere in the world, an acceleration will have to be made higher for the installation of electric charging stations and the roll-out of hydrogen filling stations. In this respect Daimler presents itself as a good student: for example, the company in Germany, together with the partners of the joint venture H2 Mobility, has already developed an action plan. One of the objectives is to double the number of hydrogen stations to arrive at a network of one hundred stations by the end of the year. And by 2023, there would even be about four hundred. Mercedes emphasizes that similar projects will soon be set up in the rest of Europe, in the US and in Japan.
By connecting a relatively large battery to a fuel cell, Mercedes has invented a new type of hybrid drive. Thanks to this new technology, the German manufacturer can unpack with a hydrogen car that is both efficient and dynamic. The other side of the coin is that this technology somewhat detracts from the interior space: the rear seat is positioned a little higher to accommodate one of the hydrogen tanks. The case is also slightly smaller, due to the raised floor.