Automakers are faced with a number of options when it comes to alternative powertrains, though at this stage it’s still anyone’s guess as to which will be prevalent in the future. Right now plug-in hybrids and battery-powered electrics are gaining traction in the market, but if you ask the major automakers they’ll tell you that hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles may be a better solution.

Toyota plans to launch a mass-produced fuel cell vehicle on the market next year, and Honda has promised to launch a follow-up to its original FCX Clarity around the same time. Mercedes-Benz at one point was prepared to launch a fuel cell vehicle on the market as early as this year, following positive results from a trial fleet of fuel cell-equipped B-Class models launched in 2009, but then axed the plans because the cars would prove too expensive given their limited expected volumes.

The solution was to form a partnership with other automakers in order to spread the investment, and in 2013 a deal was struck between Mercedes-Benz, Ford and Nissan.  With the partnership in place, Mercedes-Benz is reportedly looking at launching a fuel cell vehicle on the market in 2017.

“We’ve already had several vehicles in the market, [albeit] at a relatively low volume,” Mercedes sales and marketing boss Ola Kallenius told Motoring. “But maybe in the 2017-ish timeframe there will be the next generation.”

The “next generation” Kallenius is referring to is believed to be a crossover or SUV.

At the same time, Mercedes-Benz is aware that there is a serious lack of hydrogen filling stations and that current means of acquiring hydrogen is rather expensive. That’s why Mercedes and other automakers are investing in a number of alternative powertrains and hedging their bets.


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