Many think the infrastructure for a hydrogen-powered car just isn’t there, and they’re mostly right. There have been a few advances in hydrogen production recently, but the distribution system is the weak point. Honda hasn’t let that deter the production of a hydrogen fueled car, and neither is Mercedes-Benz, which today is launching its first series-produced fuel Cell car on the road: the new B-Class F-Cell.

The environmentally friendly electric car has better performance than a 2.0-liter gasoline car and is fully suited for everyday driving, with the zero-emission drive system achieves the equivalent of 71 mpg of diesel. Production of the B-Class F-Cell will commence in late 2009 with a small lot. The first of around 200 vehicles will be delivered to customers in Europe and the U.S. at the beginning of next year.

The vehicle’s technological heart is a compact, high-performance fuel Cell system, in which gaseous hydrogen reacts with atmospheric oxygen at 700 bar to generate a current for the electric motor. The fuel Cell system of the B-Class F-Cell has a very good cold-start capability even at temperatures as low as minus 25 degrees Celsius, and is good for a driving range of about 250 mi.

Peak output from the electric motor stands at 136 horsepower and 214 pound-feet of torque, all of which is available from zero revs.  As in hybrids with combustion engines, the B-Class F-Cell also uses a lithium-ion battery with an output of 35 kW and a capacity of 1.4 kWh to boost power and recover braking energy.

Mercedes-Benz does acknowledge that a comprehensive network of hydrogen filling stations still has to be set up before locally zero-emission driving can become a widespread reality. To make this possible, the automaker is cooperating with government authorities, energy utilities and oil companies in joint projects in places such as Hamburg, Stuttgart and California to help roll out hydrogen infrastructure.