Right now, hydrogen cars are stuck in a world that isn't yet ready for them. While a small number of brands (Toyota and Honda, to name a couple) are rolling out small batches of fuel-cell electric vehicles, the infrastructure isn't yet ready to take on an influx of interest in hydrogen. Mercedes thinks it has a solution with its new GLC F-Cell.
Fuel cell vehicles work by converting compressed hydrogen gas into electricity, which it uses to power the vehicle. The GLC F-Cell still rocks that fuel-cell system, but for the first time, it also allows the owner to charge the car's battery with a plug. Current hydrogen cars, like the Toyota Mirai, don't offer that solution. The Mirai does have a charging port, but it's for output only, as the car is built to provide off-grid power for homes and the like.
The GLC F-Cell sports a roughly 9-kWh battery, which can be charged to allow an all-battery range of about 31 miles (50 kilometers). Combined with a full tank of compressed hydrogen gas, the GLC F-Cell's total range is approximately 310 miles (500 km). The hydrogen filling process takes about as long as a standard gas car's fill-up, while battery charging will take a bit longer, especially if you're using a standard 120-volt outlet.
As John Voelcker at Green Car Reports points out, this can have a variety of benefits. You won't need to use hydrogen for small, around-town jaunts, buyers won't need to rely as often on the small number of available hydrogen filling stations and electricity still remains the cheapest fill-up there is (hydrogen's expected to cost about as much as gas).
Plug-in hybrids have really helped lessen the gap between the benefits of traditional hybrids and the benefits of proper battery-electric vehicles, and now they're also giving the same help to the burgeoning hydrogen infrastructure. Hopping on the H train has never been easier.