Mercedes-Benz GLC F-Cell – production plug-in hybrid hydrogen SUV debuts with 208 hp, 478 km total range

One year after the Mercedes-Benz GLC F-Cell was unveiled in pre-production form at the Frankfurt Motor Show, Stuttgart has released full details on the version the public will actually be able to buy. As intimated previously, this eco-friendly SUV is said to be the first hydrogen-powered plug-in hybrid, drawing electricity both from a fuel cell as well as a lithium-ion battery.

Since the motor show, outputs from the electric motor have increased from 147 kW (197 hp) to 155 kW (208 hp) – now identical to what you’d find on a petrol-powered GLC 250 – and from 350 Nm of torque to 365 Nm. Total range in hybrid mode has also jumped from 437 km to 478 km, while the range using only the 13.5 kWh (9.3 kWh net capacity) battery goes from 49 km to 51 km. Top speed is limited to 160 km/h.

The rest of the hardware specifications remain identical, with the new fuel cell being 30% smaller than what you’d find in the B-Class F-Cell, despite a 40% increase in output. As such, it fits within the standard GLC’s engine bay and uses the same mounting points as its fossil-fuelled brethren. It also uses 90% less platinum than before, conserving resources and reducing costs without impacting performance.

Fuel comes from two 700-bar hydrogen tanks, encased in carbon fibre and holding 4.4 kg of the stuff. It is mounted at the back of the car – together with the battery and the electric motor – resulting in a stepped boot floor and rear seats that are mounted slightly higher than in a conventional GLC. Charging the battery to full from 10% takes 1.5 hours on full power through the 7.4 kW onboard charger.

As with Mercedes’ other plug-in hybrids, the GLC F-Cell features four operating modes for the powertrain. Hybrid optimises the use of both power sources, F-Cell keeps the battery’s state of charge by using only hydrogen, Battery draws power solely from the battery (obviously) and Charge, um, charges the battery while on the move. These are influenced by the separate Eco, Comfort and Sport drive modes.

Elsewhere, there’s self-levelling air suspension at the rear for a balanced ride even when fully loaded. For maximum efficiency, the climate control system features pre-entry cooling and heating when the car is charged up at the mains, and it can also utilise waste heat from the fuel cell in colder climates.

The car also uses the sensors from the array of active safety systems to determine the most efficient way to accelerate – taking into account the route characteristics, topography and traffic – and provide the driver with hints on optimising range. Owners will be able to access various bits of information such as the range, consumption, fuel tank level and battery charging status through the Mercedes me app.

The GLC F-Cell will only be available as a full-service rental, inclusive of all maintenance and repairs. Deliveries kick off at the end of this month in major cities already with a fairly comprehensive hydrogen infrastructure, including Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Munich, Cologne and Düsseldorf. Parent company Daimler is also working on increasing the filling station network from 51 to 100 stations across Germany by the end of next year through its H2 Mobility joint venture, with a target of 400 stations by 2023.

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