Mercedes-Benz B-Class F-CELL

Mercedes-Benz B-Class F-CELL

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 plans to launch a production hydrogen fuel-cell car in the U.S. next year.

The luxury automaker will build 200 of the zero-emissions vehicles, each based on the current B-Class compact. Half of these have been earmarked for the U.S., with most expected to end up in California where there are currently hydrogen filling stations.

The information comes from Daimler R&D chief Thomas Weber, who revealed that the cars will go to private customers. The cars will be leased early next year, but terms have not been finalized, he explained.

Mercedes-Benz showcased the fuel-cell B-Class this week at the 2009 Frankfurt Auto Show. The car, which you can read more on in our previous story, has better performance than a 2.0-liter gasoline car and is fully suited for everyday driving.

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 to power an electric motor that then drives the front wheels. Weber said the driving range on a single tank of hydrogen should be about 250 miles.

[AutoNews, sub req'd]