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This Is Why Mercedes Is Giving Up on Hydrogen Fuel Cells

For years, hydrogen has been the fuel of the future, always one breakthrough away from becoming the next big thing. But while other companies are ramping up their hydrogen fuel cell investments, Mercedes has decided to focus on electric vehicles instead.

No More Mercedes Fuel Cells

If you talk to automakers like GM, Honda, Toyota, and Hyundai, hydrogen fuel cell technology is still an important investment. In fact, Honda just launched the hydrogen-powered Clarity, and Toyota’s been selling the odd-looking Mirai since 2015. But don’t expect to see Mercedes selling cars powered by fuel cells anytime soon.

As the website Smart2Zero reports, Mercedes and its parent company Daimler have decided that hydrogen fuel cells are no longer a priority. CEO Dieter Zetsche recently told reporters in Stuttgart that even though Daimler has developed cutting-edge fuel-cell technology, the advantages it offers are disappearing. Instead, he plans to focus on battery-electric vehicles.

Advantages of Batteries Over Fuel Cells

Early electric cars were limited by battery range and long charging times. Hydrogen fuel cells, meanwhile, could be refueled quickly and could go much longer distances between fill-ups. But in the past several years, batteries have improved dramatically. Fuel cell technology, however, hasn’t exactly followed suit.

“Battery costs are declining rapidly whereas hydrogen production remains very costly,” Zetsche said. He then went on to say that fuel cells are an “interesting solution” but that the cost of producing hydrogen sustainably will likely limit its usefulness.

Considering how much battery technology has improved in only the last decade, this is probably the right move for Daimler. Hydrogen enthusiasts will understandably be disappointed, but unfortunately for them, the industry as a whole is moving towards battery-electric vehicles. If Mercedes wants to compete with the other automakers developing electric cars, it probably shouldn’t continue investing in hydrogen technology that may never be viable.

That said, at least for now, a hydrogen-powered version of the Mercedes-Benz GLC will still go on sale later this year. After that, you may never be able to buy a hydrogen fuel cell-powered Mercedes ever again.


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Comments

The cost of H2 is too high? Give me a call. Our Texas-based R&D program has developed technology that can use wind energy to produce H2 at a cost per mile competitive with 2016 gasoline prices.
Forward me your phone number, i'd like hear your story.
And every kWh used to produce H2 could have been used to drive a BEV three time the distance you get form the H2. Comparison to gasoline prices is of no relevance. Its the BEV H2 is competing against.
Fuel cost is only part of the picture. Time to refill or recharge, energy density (and related factors, such as range), power demand on the grid, vehicle size (trucks & tractor-trailers vs. small cars) and many factors must also be considered. One of my associates, who owns an engineering firm, recently completed a project to convert all of the material handling equipment at a large factory from electrical to H2. The point is, that H2 and electric will both have very large markets in the near future. Both will be very large, and each has its advantages. Which has more than 50% of the total market for vehicular energy is of very little relevance to us, who are in business to supply the H2 to a very rapidly growing sector.