News: Honda Clarity Named 2018 Green Car of the Year

News: Honda Clarity Named 2018 Green Car of the Year

Clarity Family Wins Honor for Three Models

Green Car Journal awarded its 2018 Green Car of the Year trophy to the Honda Clarity family of vehicles, which comes as a fuel cell electric, battery electric or plug-in hybrid. The magazine noted that “Honda’s Clarity sedan is a future-thinking model that redefines how to deliver what drivers desire today, while also anticipating the shifting needs of a more environmentally positive driving future.”

2018 Green Car of the Year

Honda’s Clarity Fuel Cell was one-third of the winners

The Clarity was picked from an all-Asian nameplate field of contenders, including the Honda Accord, Hyundai Ioniq, Nissan Leaf and Toyota Camry. The award was announced during Automobility/LA, the media preview to the Los Angeles Auto Show.

The jury for the award includes Jean-Michel Cousteau, president of Ocean Futures Society; Matt Petersen, president and CEO of Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator and board member of Global Green USA; Dr. Alan Lloyd, president emeritus of the International Council on Clean Transportation; Mindy Lubber, president of CERES; and Kateri Callahan, president of the Alliance to Save Energy, plus celebrity auto enthusiast Jay Leno and Green Car Journal editors. 

2018 Green Car of the Year

The Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid may have closed the deal for the award

“The Green Car of the Year award is further validation of Honda’s approach to electrification with the Clarity family of vehicles,” said Steven Center, vice president of connected and environmental business at American Honda. “The Clarity Plug-in Hybrid, Clarity Electric and Clarity Fuel Cell offer the power of choice to consumers who want to step in to an electrified vehicle without the compromise. We are proud to deliver on that promise to offer these three advanced powertrains you can only find from Honda in a roomy five-passenger sedan with all the creature comforts that consumers expect today.”

Clean Fleet Report has spent time in all three models and concurs that they have accomplished quite a feat by offering such a variety of powertrains in one model. Our test drive of the Clarity Fuel Cell is here and one of the Clarity Electric is here. A full road test of the Clarity Plug-in Hybrid is here. We’re not sure the individual Clarity models are the best in each of their categories, but the unique offering of three powertrain choices definitely stands out.

2018 Green Car of the Year

The Honda Clarity Electric is the third member of the family

News: GM Shows Autonomous Fuel Cell EV Platform

News: GM Shows Autonomous Fuel Cell EV Platform

U.S. Army Takes a Look at New Technology

General Motors presented its Silent Utility Rover Universal Superstructure (SURUS), a flexible fuel cell electric platform with autonomous capabilities, at this week’s meeting of the Association of the United States Army (AUSA). It is not to be mistaken for a truck; it’s a platform capable of carrying large loads. SURUS is designed to assist in “some of the toughest transportation challenges,” such as natural disasters and global conflicts, according to GM.

GM fuel cell

GM’s fuel cell platform could have a variety of uses

SURUS uses the company’s newest Hydrotec fuel cell powertrain, giving it zero-emissions green cred and impressive performance. Furthermore, SURUS will incorporate autonomous capability, increasing its attractiveness to the military; drone-style operation could make deliveries in dangerous areas much safer for the operator.

“SURUS redefines fuel cell electric technology for both highway and off-road environments,” said Charlie Freese, executive director of GM Global Fuel Cell Business. “General Motors is committed to bringing new high-performance, zero-emission systems to solve complex challenges for a variety of customers.”

There are a variety of other uses that can be accommodated with SURUS, as revealed by several illustrations. It can underpin light- to medium-duty utility and service trucks, serve as a self-driving cargo hauler or double as a mobile medical unit or power generator. As an open platform not obstructed by a driver’s cabin or other ancillary structure, and with an appearance resembling a skateboard, SURUS’ potential uses are nearly endless.

Tech Specs

SURUS is about 16.5 feet long and 7.5 feet wide. With two electric drive units, four-wheel steering, a lithium-ion battery, 400 miles worth of hydrogen storage, and an advanced suspension, SURUS is packed with technology. Some of the benefits of the Hydrotec fuel cell include quiet and odor-free operation, high instantaneous torque and quick refueling time. It is also capable of providing an exportable power source and generating water.

GM fuel cell

The Army likes the quiet operation of SURUS

This isn’t GM’s first foray into fuel cell vehicles for the military. In 2005, the auto and truck maker supplied a fuel cell-powered Chevrolet half-ton pickup for testing at the U.S. Army base in Ft. Belvoir, VA, outside of Washington D.C. And last April, GM released the Colorado ZH2, an off-road 4×4 truck considered the first ground-mobility combat vehicle using hydrogen fuel-cell technology. Military testing has shown the ZH2 reduced acoustic non-detection distance by 90 percent compared to current military vehicles in operation. This means the ZH2 can get 10 times closer before being detected. Testing will continue through spring 2018.

The SURUS prototype is just a work-in-progress platform, and GM hasn’t actually committed to any official timetable for series production.

News: San Ramon’s New Hydrogen Station Is Open for Business

News: San Ramon’s New Hydrogen Station Is Open for Business

Infrastructure Grows as More Fuel Cell Cars Hit the Streets

Along with plug-in electric vehicles, hydrogen fuel cell cars have a major part to play in the movement away from the internal combustion engine. The latest fuel cell cars look and perform just like “regular cars,” and you can drive one home today from a local Toyota, Honda or Hyundai dealership “if.” The “if” is the impediment to mass adoption because of the still fledgling hydrogen fueling infrastructure.

Hydrogen station

“Gassing” up with hydrogen is becoming easier

To help remedy that situation, the State of California is building 100 hydrogen fuel stations. As part of that effort, San Ramon (on the eastern side of the San Francisco Bay) now hosts station #29. It’s an attractive and spacious new facility that just opened in the sprawling Bishop Ranch industrial park, which just happens to be the headquarters of oil giant Chevron. The land for the station is leased from Toyota for $1 a year (the new station borders on Toyota’s Northern California zone office). It’s very convenient for refueling the manufacturer’s Mirai hybrid sedans, although any hydrogen-powered car is welcome.

Station #29 is one of seven stations slated for the San Francisco Bay Area in the next year (or two, the process of commissioning and building a station is long and not always predictable). Ross Koble, Toyota’s Advanced Technology PR representative, said that in the two years the Mirai has been on the road, Toyota (which pays for the fuel for leased or purchased cars, has noticed that owners appear to be extending the time between fill-ups. He thought that indicated a learning curve as owners became more comfortable with fuel cell technology and the refueling infrastructure, reducing the fear of running out of fuel.  

The Ribbon Is Cut

I attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony, where a group of the people responsible for bringing this new community asset to San Ramon each spoke to an appreciative crowd.

Hydrogen station

The hydrogen station has the look and feel of the familiar gas station

We first heard from Bill Elrick, executive director of the California Fuel Cell Partnership, an industry/government collaboration that has worked since 1999 to expand the market for fuel cell hydrogen-powered vehicles. Elrick touted the multiple benefits of the station—environmental, economic and for energy independence. He thanked the California Air Resources Board (CARB), which has been instrumental in promoting the market for fuel cell vehicles with cash incentives on the vehicles and a regulation that encourages automakers to produce zero emission vehicles like fuel cells.

Michael Beckman, VP/Head – Key Customers & Hydrogen Fueling at Linde, the folks whose technology powers the station, thanked the assembled city and county representatives for getting the job done. “It’s tough to build in California,” Beckman said, but he was very happy with the outcome. Linde’s Ionic Compression technology is found in many applications, including the sprawling A/C Transit yard in Emeryville, which fuels 13 fuel cell buses, and a large facility at the BMW factory in Spartanburg, South Carolina. They also built the public hydrogen station in West Sacramento.

The Politicians

It’s not a community ribbon-cutting without the appropriate dignitaries, so San Ramon Mayor Bill Clarkson spoke briefly. Democratic State Senator Steve Glaser, who represents California’s 7th Senate District, praised the state’s aggressive goals and provision of incentives for alternate fuels. Republican Assemblymember Catharine Baker, who represents the 16th California Assembly District, noted the bipartisan agreement in support of this technology as it moves into cities and towns around the state.

Candace Anderson, Contra Costa County District 2 supervisor, hailed the public/private partnership that has made the air in California cleaner today. She presented a certificate of appreciation for the building of Station #29. I spoke privately with San Ramon Assistant City Manager Eric Figueroa, who was pleased to have the state-of-the-art facility in his community.

The Cars

Representing the auto industry, Dawn Mercer, National Manager, Advanced Technology Vehicles Marketing, stepped up to the microphone. She explained that Toyota has been working on fuel cells for 20 years, since the days of the first Prius, and was sanguine about the growth of fuel cell vehicles. About 2,100 Toyota Mirai fuel cell cars are tooling around California (60 percent are in the Los Angeles area, where the infrastructure is more developed than in the north) already, compared to 10 million hybrids on roads all over the world. The fuel cells are sold by only eight Toyota dealers, four in the south and four in the north.

Fuel-cell vehicles run on electricity, but unlike a plug-in electric car, which is charged from an electric source, they generate the electricity in the vehicle itself. The process involves combining the hydrogen fuel with oxygen, creating energy, with the sole byproduct being H2O—water. A Toyota Mirai can get around 312 miles on a tankful of hydrogen, and it only takes a few minutes to fill it. This replicates the experience most drivers are accustomed to at their local gas station.

Hydrogen station

The Hyundai Tucson SUV is one of three fuel cell EVs on the market

The issue for early adopter hydrogen car owners has been finding a station, so placing a facility in the heart of this prosperous area is a good way to boost sales of the three hydrogen cars currently available: the Toyota Mirai and Honda Clarity midsize sedans and the Hyundai Tucson compact crossover.

Chris Weeks, director of transportation for Bishop Ranch, told Clean Fleet Report he felt San Ramon was a great spot for station #29. “There’s plenty of disposable income here, people have long commutes, and the types of people who live and work around here appreciate the new technology,” he said. Weeks drives a fuel cell Hyundai Tucson.

The sales manager for one of the eight Toyota dealers selling the Mirai, Russ Mobley, told Clean Fleet Report that some of his customers are converts from Tesla’s electric cars—some trading in their Model S and others abandoning the long line for the just-introduced Model 3 to move to an advanced technology they can drive home now. He also added that the availability of the HOV-lane sticker, which allows a Mirai driver to use the carpool lane while driving solo, is a major motivator.

Toyota executives noted that they are finding Mirai owners forming ad hoc affinity groups, sharing their experiences on social media.

The Station Process

John Kato, deputy director of the California Energy Commission, also spoke to the crowd. The California Energy Commission is tasked by state law with developing and deploying alternative and renewable fuels and advanced transportation technologies to help meet California’s goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and petroleum dependence in the transportation sector. The Energy Commission is responsible for building California’s network of 100 hydrogen stations; so far, they have funded 60 stations, of which 31 are currently open.

Hydrogen station

Some FCEVs stand out more than others

Later, Kato and I chatted about the other area of hydrogen technology that needs development. Although there are many ways to produce hydrogen fuel, it is an energy intensive process today, making it less sustainable. Kato is hopeful that the use of renewable energy generated from biomethane from waste treatment and landfills will help lead to more clean hydrogen production in California soon.

The new station’s pump looks much like a modern gas dispensing unit, with a slot to pay and a small keypad. It also features a screen with a short video explaining how to use the station. Regular patrons will presumably skip that part, but it’s good to learn to use the station properly. It’s a simple process.

The happy crowd had a chance to test drive hydrogen vehicles after the presentation, although some attendees were already proud owners. The presence of hydrogen station #29 should help more people in the Bay Area make the decision to go green with hydrogen.

Note: Michael Coates contributed to this article.

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Road Test: 2017 Toyota Mirai

Road Test: 2017 Toyota Mirai

Laboratory On Wheels

If you live in California, you have the opportunity to participate in a real world experiment: Leasing a 2017 Toyota Mirai. How can leasing a car be considered an experiment? When the car is a hydrogen fuel cell electric car, that is how. Heck, the word Mirai in Japanese means “the future,” which this car certainly could be.

The idea of propelling a car with hydrogen puts Toyota on the leading edge of this technology, just like in 2000 when they launched the Prius Hybrid in the United States. It was a bold step then, taking a massive financial commitment, to think consumers would take to driving a car powered by anything other than an internal combustion engine (ICE). Fast forward to 2017, and if a car manufacturer doesn’t have an electrified car in their line-up, they will need to do so real, real soon. Note: Honda, Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz and others also sell hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, but for this story we are concentrating on the Toyota Mirai.

How Hydrogen Fits into the Electrification of Cars

Electrification of vehicles comes in three variations: a pure battery electric (EV, electric motor only), plug-in hybrid (PHEV, capable of recharging the battery and extended all-electric range, but retaining an engine) and hybrid (internal combustion engine and electric motor with limited all-electric range). These vehicles are common on the road (depending where you live), and built by several manufacturers.

2017 Toyota Mirai

Fuel cell electric cars fill up quicker

The concept on these is pretty straight forward, without getting into the minutia of the technology. Electricity is stored in batteries (a variation of lithium-ion or nickel-metal hydride chemestries) by plugging into a common wall socket (120V), a Level 2 charger (240V) or a fast-charger (480V), or through an on-board generator or regenerative braking. The charged batteries can drive the vehicle’s electric motor and propel the car or, in the hybrid case, potentially aid the ICE to move it along.

The fastest plug-in charge times with the 480V charger are about twenty minutes, from a low battery to 80-percent fully charged, depending on the size of the battery. For lower voltage charging the time can be from eight to 20 hours. So, the challenge is finding a fast charger, which can be an adventure, leading to drivers wondering (fearing) running out of juice and no way to recharge. Note: Tesla has its proprietary charging stations, strategically located on a few major highways and cities in several states, but not all. So it is possible to drive a Model S, X or 3 just like you would a gasoline-powered car, though with more frequent stops for refueling. 

Hydrogen fuel cells do it a bit differently. Hydrogen is used to create electricity on board to propel the electric motors that propel the car. Fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV) are refueled in a very similar manner to an ICE vehicle. You find a hydrogen station, swipe your card, insert the nozzle, turn on the pump and in about five minutes–or the same time as refueling with gasoline–and you are good to go. Sounds simple, right?

The hydrogen producers and hydrogen fuel cell vehicle manufacturers are in a chicken and egg situation. The fuel companies are reluctant to build hydrogen fueling stations until there are enough FCEV on the road to make it financially worthwhile, and the car manufacturers are waiting for a comprehensive network of fueling stations to be built before investing in FCEV mass production. Not sure who will blink first, but Toyota, Honda, Hyundai and Mercedes-Benz have all made a commitment to FCEV technology, so the hope is that the two sides will come together real soon on a solution.

2017 Toyota Mirai

The Mirai by the numbers

The Difference Between EV and Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles

The 2017 Toyota Mirai has a 1.7-kWh nickel-metal hydride battery that is charged with electricity created from the hydrogen stored in the two carbon-fiber tanks. The pressurized hydrogen gas combines with oxygen in the fuel cell to produce electricity. In this process heat and water are produced and the chemical reaction becomes electricity. The only byproduct of this process is water, which is clean enough to drink (though it’s not recommended), and can be seen dripping from the tailpipe of the car.

Laboratory On Wheels: Fueling

You will be eager to learn how to fuel the Mirai. Start by going to The California Fuel Cell Partnership website to find stations that are on your driving route. Unlike the thousands of gasoline stations in California, there are only fifty hydrogen stations statewide. Most are open 24/7 and usually unattended. Unfortunately, they also are not always operational. One of my trips was from

2017 Toyota Mirai

At the pump it’s the same but different than a gasoline car

South Orange County to Santa Monica, a mere seventy-two freeway miles but one that necessitated topping-off the hydrogen tank. On the day I was making this trip I found five stations on my route, but three of them were out of service. This apparently is not an uncommon occurrence with this nascent industry from online reports.

Once at the station, the fueling process is explained through a video that plays on the pump as well as on a sign with step-by-step instructions. Quick lesson: The nozzle notches into the filler pipe, followed by the twisting of a handle to lock the nozzle in place. It can be a bit tricky, but be patient, it will eventually fit. If there are two pressure options on your pump, you always want to select 70 Bar, which is 10,000 psi, to get a better fill. The filling will start and stop for a few seconds at a time, but a complete fill is under five minutes. When removing the nozzle you will notice it is cold. This is because the hydrogen gas is cooled to right around zero degrees Fahrenheit to increase the hydrogen’s density, which results in more gas filling the tank. That’s it! Take your receipt for your free fill-up (more on that free gas later) and off you go.

Laboratory On Wheels: On the Road

The 2017 Toyota Mirai Clean Fleet Report tested for two weeks had a 113-kW AC synchronous motor producing 151 horsepower and 247 pounds-feet of torque. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates the fuel economy to be 67 mpge for city, highway and combined (the “e” is for equivalent as in gasoline gallon equivalent) . Toyota estimates a 310-mile driving range. In 469 miles of driving throughout Southern California, our Mirai’s dash gauge never showed more than 238 miles of driving range. Toyota said the gauge is conservative in its read-out purposely to save owners from running out of fuel.

2017 Toyota Mirai

The Mirai on the road is no sports car, but it has a luxury feel

The front-wheel drive Mirai gets to 60 mph in a bit more than nine seconds, which is respectable to move 4,075 lbs., but certainly not fast. You can feel the heaviness–in a good way–with a ride so very smooth and comfortable you would swear you were in a much larger and expensive luxury car.

The electric power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering, the front MacPherson struts with stabilizer bar and rear Torsion beam suspension delivers a smooth and stable ride. SoCal concrete freeways are grooved, so tire noise in any car is common. The seams between the concrete sections can, if hit at the right sped, produce a rhythmic thumpity-thumpity-thump. Not fun. However, the Mirai tire and wind noise was damped very well, making for an extremely quiet and pleasant ride. It seems obvious, but it needs to be said, that there is no engine noise because there is no engine. Ah, the beauty of an EV!

The 17-inch alloy wheels and 215/55R17 tires deliver handling that was direct with little body roll. Nothing sporty about the Mirai, but then again Toyota does not market it as a sporty car.

The Mirai’s battery is replenished while driving through the regenerative braking charging system. This technology converts kinetic energy into electric energy when applying the brakes or coasting and stores it in the battery. This process can be viewed on a dash gauge where you can watch the power flow into and out of the battery and electric motor. The regenerative brakes had solid stops with a system consisting of power-assisted ventilated front discs with solid rear discs, anti-lock brakes (ABS), brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution.

Laboratory On Wheels: Interior

The 2017 Toyota Mirai can seat four full-size adults, with the rear passengers getting good head and leg room, and a center armrest with cup holders. The front and rear seats are heated and covered in Softex, a synthetic leather designed for wear and ease of cleaning. The front seats are power adjustable. Comfort-wise, the seats are firm and, for the driver, finding a good driving position is helped by the power tilt and telescopic steering column.

2017 Toyota Mirai

The dash pulls your eyes to the right

Gauges are located in the center of the dash with none, as in zero, being directly in front of the driver. It took a bit of adjustment to look 10 degrees to the right at all times, but it is odd. The largest element of the dash is an 11-inch high-resolution touch-screen color display housing Toyota’s Entune, JBL Premium Audio system and navigation. The 11-speaker system included an AM/FM cache radio with MP3/WMA playback capability, SiriusXM (which includes 90-day trial subscription) and HD AM Radio with iTunes. Also an auxiliary audio jack, USB port with iPod connectivity and control, hands-free phone, advanced voice recognition, Siri Eyes Free, and music streaming via Bluetooth. The audio system has knobs for volume and channel selection, something Clean Fleet Report requires for a sound system to get an A+ grade from our discerning staff.

Gear selection is by a joystick on the lower center stack. Drive settings of Eco and Power modes, and the parking brake buttons, are an easy reach near the gear selector.

Laboratory On Wheels: Exterior

New for 2016 and carried-over for 2017, the Mirai is not wedge-shaped like the Prius. The front end is dominated by two large air scoops on each corner of the lower fascia, topped by attractive rectangular quad-LED projector headlamps. The sloped hood leads to a raked windshield and roof that peaks at the B pillar, and then gently slopes to where the rear glass meets the short trunk hood. The rear is highlighted by the large LED brake/taillight combo.


2017 Toyota Mirai

Much of the trunk is dedicated to the fuel tank

The 2017 Toyota Mirai comes in one model with no options other than exterior color. The MSRP is $57,500 as a purchase, but most people will be leasing at $349 a month for 36 months. This price excludes the $835 delivery fee.

The Mirai qualifies for Federal tax credits and California state incentives that could reduce your final cost. Clean Fleet Report recommends contacting your CPA before considering a Mirai purchase so you are completely clear on the tax credits. Not relying on the dealer to provide this information will serve them and you best.

Also worth noting is the Mirai qualifies for California’s coveted white car pool stickers, allowing the driver, with no passenger, to use the HOV lane. This is no small thing when trying to get anywhere on a freeway in the Golden State.

Safety and Warranties

The 2017 Mirai has not been rated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. However, it is well-equipped for safety with eight airbags. Advanced driver pre-collision technology includes lane departure alert, blind spot monitor, dynamic radar cruise control, pedestrian detection and an engine immobilizer. Remote keyless entry,

2017 Toyota Mirai

Seating more like a Lexus

push button start/stop, power door locks, heated and power outside mirrors, a tire pressure monitoring system, vehicle stability and traction control, brake assist and smart stop technology add to round out the equipment lineup.

The 2017 Mirai comes with these warranties:

  • Fuel Cell System  –  Eight years/100,000 miles
  • Powertrain  –  Five years/60,000 miles
  • Basic  –  Three years/36,000 miles

Observations: 2017 Toyota Mirai Hydrogen Fuel Cell EV

Hydrogen is listed first on the Periodic Table of the Elements. It’s good being first, but there is a reason as hydrogen is the lightest of all elements. It has a near unlimited abundance, but is never found by itself, so to be extracted for use as a fuel is an expensive proposition. It currently sells for around $10 per kilogram, roughly the equivalent to a gallon of gasoline. Currently, to run an FCEV compared to a battery electric will cost about four times as much, based on your cost of electricity.

2017 Toyota Mirai

Mirai moves away from the Prius wedge

Toyota is fully aware of the cost of compressed hydrogen gas to power the Mirai and are cognizant that Mirai owners are to be valued for their progressive outlook on life and willingness to test new technology. Toyota rewards their customers with a pre-loaded, $15,000 fuel card. This is the equivalent of three years worth of hydrogen gas at 12,000 miles per year. Conveniently, this is the length of your lease. Therefore, you do not need to be concerned with the price of hydrogen gas.

Hydrogen fuel cell passenger vehicles are in the first phase of acceptance and development, so expect a slow roll-out. We are seeing this technology appear in city buses and potentially in over-the-road semi trucks in the not so far-off future. The development of hydrogen to power electric vehicles is being conducted by private industry and government programs on a worldwide basis, so expect announcements and breakthroughs.

Is the Mirai right for your lifestyle and driving pattern? This, of course, is a personal decision that will take time to determine. Right now where you live (and where the refueling stations are) is a prime determinant. If you live in the right place, your research and comparison shopping, with test drives of many electric and non-electric cars, will be the way to get you to that decision. If you see yourself as a trailblazer who wants to only leave  a trail of water behind your car as you cruise down the road, then the Mirai is your next car.

Whatever you end up buying, enjoy your new car and as always, Happy Driving!

Related Stories You Might Enjoy:

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News: Toyota Mirai Hits the Market

First Drive: 2017 Honda Clarity FCEV

News: Honda Clarity Fuel Cell Model Introduced


Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at








News: 2019 Mercedes-Benz GLC F-Cell Combines Plug-In + Fuel Cell

News: 2019 Mercedes-Benz GLC F-Cell Combines Plug-In + Fuel Cell

At this week’s Frankfurt auto show, automakers will be vying to show that Tesla won’t overtake them by introducing a passel of battery-electric vehicles themselves. Here’s a look from Clean Fleet Report of one of those new electrified cars that you could be driving by the end of this decade.

Frankfurt Motor Show Sees Advances on Hydrogen Front

Mercedes-Benz arrived at the Frankfurt Motor Show with a pre-production plug-in fuel-cell version of its GLC F-Cell, ahead of its showroom debut next year. The GLC F-Cell is exactly what the name suggests: a fuel-cell version of Mercedes’ GLC-Class compact crossover/SUV that has been rolling off the production line since July 2015.

Mercedes GLC F-Cell

The GLC F-Cell looks ready to hit the road

A prototype model was seen at the 2016 Paris Motor Show, and the pre-production GLC F-Cell’s powertrain is a near duplication. It features both a fuel-cell stack and a lithium-ion battery pack that can be recharged by pluggin in, an industry first.

Fill Up With Hydrogen—Or, Plug It In

The centerpiece of the GLC F-Cell EQ Power’s technology, the fuel-cell stack, was developed in Vancouver, Canada, together with partner Ford in the Automotive Fuel Cell Cooperation (AFCC) joint venture. Around 30 percent more compact than previous stacks, it can be fully housed in the engine bay for the first time. Furthermore, the cost of the fuel cell stack technology has been slashed thanks largely to a 90-percent reduction in the amount of platinum used in the stack.

Electrical energy used to power the GLC F-Cell’s electric motors is generated on board within the fuel cell stack in a reaction between compressed hydrogen and oxygen. Two carbon-fiber-encased tanks are located in the middle and under the rear seats, storing four kilograms of hydrogen. Mercedes states that the tanks can be refilled within three minutes and provide 271 miles of emissions-free driving range.

Mercedes GLC F-Cell

The fuel cell now fits under the hood

A 13.8-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery is housed at the rear of the SUV to save space and provides about 30 miles of battery-electric driving, for a total range of 301 miles. Regenerative braking allows energy to be recuperated and stored in the battery during braking and coasting phases. Like plug-in hybrid or electric vehicles, the battery can be recharged using a standard 120-volt household outlet, a home recharger or a public charging station.

Combined output for the rear-wheel drive luxury crossover is about 197 horsepower and a hearty 258 pounds-feet of torque. Charging time for the battery on a standard household outlet using the 7.2 kW on-board chargers takes just 1.5 hours. The GLC F-Cell will have three driving modes (Eco, Comfort and Sport), as well as four operating modes (Hybrid, F-Cell, Battery and Charge).

The Mercedes GLC F-Cell will go on sale in the U.S. by the end of 2019, but it’s unlikely that it will be sold outside of California, as there are only 40 hydrogen refueling stations available in the U.S. and all but four of them are in California.