MERCEDES-BENZ GLC F-CELL

Hy­dro­gen fuel cell shows this tech’s po­ten­tial in a swish SUV

Autocar - - FIRST DRIVES - SI­MON DAVIS

ALTHOUGH MERCEDES CUR­RENTLY has no plans to sell the GLC F-cell in the UK, it isn’t any less wor­thy of your at­ten­tion. Cars that use hy­dro­gen fuel cells are a rare sight and, hav­ing driven the lat­est of the breed, we still strug­gle to see why there isn’t more will at govern­ment level to change this. Well, cost is prob­a­bly a huge fac­tor, but surely you can’t put too high a price on slow­ing the ef­fect tailpipe emis­sions have on cli­mate change?

Any­way, the GLC F-cell makes use of a to­tally new fuel cell sys­tem that’s com­pact enough to be housed en­tirely within the en­gine com­part­ment. Fu­elled by liq­uid hy­dro­gen, it acts as an en­ergy source for the 208bhp elec­tric mo­tor, which also draws power from 13.5kwh bat­tery for a com­bined zero-emis­sions range of — ac­cord­ing to the trip com­puter in our test car — about 250 miles.

That range is in line with those of­fered by t he more com­pet­i­tive elec­tric ve­hi­cles cur­rently on sale; but when you con­sider that the hy­dro­gen tank can be topped up in as lit­tle as three min­utes — pro­vided you’ve ac­cess to a hy­dro­gen fill­ing sta­tion — range anx­i­ety shouldn’t be an is­sue. That said, there are cur­rently fewer than 20 hy­dro­gen fill­ing sta­tions in the UK, so you can see the need for in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ment to make th­ese ve­hi­cles vi­able.

To drive, it feels just like any other elec­tric ve­hi­cle. Ac­cel­er­a­tion is in­stan­ta­neous owing to the im­me­di­ate avail­abil­ity of the elec­tric mo­tor’s 269lb ft, while its ride is largely smooth and sup­ple. The steer­ing is light enough to al­low you to place it with ease, too.

It’s by no means a revo­lu­tion­ary car to drive. But the tech­nol­ogy that al­lows it to do so by all means is, and is en­tirely de­serv­ing of more recog­ni­tion than it cur­rently gets.

GLC’S fuel cell is small enough to fit un­der that bon­net

Range is about 250 miles and re­fill­ing takes three min­utes

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