Mercedes-Benz F-Cell World Drive Begins Australian Tour
After a 13-day journey across the south of Australia, the F-Cell World Tour of Australia will end in Perth on April 10
by John Clark | 30 March 2011
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On March 29th, after Europe and the USA & Canada legs, the third section of the F-CELL World Drive with the B-Class F-CELL cars began. This is the second time that Mercedes-Benz has brought fuel cell powered cars to Australia, as this locally emission-free technology was already used in Perth as part of the HyFLEET:CUTE STEP project. Three Mercedes-Benz Citaro buses with fuel cell drive were in operation in the city’s urban public transport system between 2004 and 2007, where they demonstrated their reliability and performance potential by covering a total of over 261,000 kilometres in Down Under. “One major advantage of fuel cell technology is that it can be used in a wide variety of vehicles, from passenger cars to buses. Moreover, it is not only suitable for short distances that are for example covered in public transport, but also for longer distances,” says Prof. Herbert Kohler, Head of E-Drive & Future Mobility in the Research and Pre-Development department, and Chief Environmental Officer of Daimler AG. “Fuel cell vehicles therefore have a great potential for CO2 reduction over a wide range of mobility needs.”
After a 13-day journey across the south of Australia, including detours to the famous Great Ocean Road, the stage of the F-CELL World Drive which is most distant from the final destination, will end in Perth on 10 April. From there, the green-painted B-Class F-CELL cars will embark on their last flight to Shanghai in China. After spending several days at the internationally important exhibition “Auto Shanghai”, their route will then take them more than 14,000 kilometres through the Eurasian continent until they arrive at their starting and finishing point in Stuttgart.
Mobile hydrogen fuelling station
One of the objectives of the F-CELL World Drive is to draw attention to the need for the development of a global hydrogen infrastructure that will make the widespread introduction of locally emission-free fuel cell vehicles possible. To date there are only very few public hydrogen fuelling stations in the world, and this presents a major challenge involving great logistical effort during this unique round-the-world tour. Public fuelling stations have so far only been available at the starting point in Stuttgart and in Los Angeles. Therefore refuelling procedures for the F-CELL World Drive required very precise planning. Two refuelling teams accompanying the tour ensure that the mobile fuelling station is available for the B-Class F-CELL cars at around midday and in the evenings. The hydrogen required is directly transported to the fuelling station by Linde AG. It is fed into the mobile fuelling unit, where it is compressed to the nominal 700 bar pressure under which it is filled into the B-Class F-CELL.
Flight arrangements subject to strict regulations
The cars must be transported from continent to continent by air for their round-the-world tour. In view of national Customs and other regulations, this too requires a great deal of careful organisation.
A jumbo jet is available to carry the tour across the seas. But there is only enough space for all the cars and other equipment if everything is loaded according to a precise plan. Fine visual judgement was therefore required when the vehicles were manoeuvred into the aircraft in Lisbon and Seattle, and of course a number of special safety regulations also needed to be satisfied. The entire tour is therefore accompanied by a crew of specialists who are well-prepared for these situations, and are able to ensure that all goes smoothly. All in all, around 20 technicians with wide-ranging expertise accompany the tour during its individual stages.
Preparations for the world tour
The preparations for this unique undertaking already began months in advance. All the route sections in Europe, the USA, Australia, China, Kazakhstan and Russia were surveyed beforehand, as only in this way could local conditions and refuelling locations be taken into account during the planning.
Indeed refuelling was the greatest challenge of all. All fuelling stops were precisely scheduled in advance to take the 380-kilometre operating range of the cars into account. Refuelling during the tour usually took place at Mercedes-Benz dealerships or Linde locations, as well as in suitable carparks and service stations.
Emission-free tour of North America with the B-Class F-CELL
Before flying to Australia the cars each covered around 10,000 kilometres on North American soil, with 18 driving days, three days of local events and numerous excursions for film and photo shoots. During this tour the participants were able to reduce the average fuel consumption of the B-Class F-CELL from the 1.18 kg of hydrogen per 100 kilometres achieved in Europe to just 1.15 kg. The fuel consumption record for the USA was 0.88 kg per 100 kilometres, corresponding to a diesel equivalent of less than 3 litres per 100 kilometres. Mercedes-Benz also used the tour to visit partner companies in North America. On 10 March the F-CELL World Drive paid a visit to the electric car manufacturer Tesla Motors, and also made a stop at the Automotive Fuel Cell Cooperation (AFCC) in Vancouver (Canada), which is developing the fuel cell stack for the B-Class F-CELL in cooperation with the Daimler research and development department in Germany. Mercedes-Benz also took this opportunity to announce future intentions in the field of electromobility: from 2013 the company will produce fuel cell stacks in its own plant in Vancouver (Canada).
Mercedes-Benz F-CELL World Drive
During the F-CELL World Drive, three Mercedes-Benz B-Class F-CELL vehicles are passing through 14 countries and 4 continents – to drive around the globe once. Organised by Mercedes-Benz, the circumnavigation of the world started on 30 January 2011 in Stuttgart and is scheduled to last 125 days, until the vehicles return to Stuttgart again at the beginning of June, after covering a distance of some 30,000 kilometres. The aim of the tour is to demonstrate the technical maturity and suitability for everyday use of electric vehicles with fuel cells, and at the same time highlight the need for a comprehensive hydrogen infrastructure. The Stuttgart-based automotive manufacturer is being supported on the tour by Linde AG, which is responsible for supplying the hydrogen.