Detroit Auto Show: Mercedes B-Class F-CELL

If your aim is to demonstrate that fuel-cell technology really has a place in cars, and not in a decades-distant way but now, what better way than drive a hydrogen-powered vehicle around the world? That seems to be the thinking at Mercedes-Benz, which used its platform at the North American International Auto Show to announce a global journey for its B-Class F-CELL that will begin in Stuttgart, Germany, on January 30.

The high-profile announcement is yet more evidence of the company’s high hopes for the F-Cell. Just last month we wrote about Mercedes delivering the first of several dozen hydrogen-powered B-Class vehicles for a demonstration program in California.

Mercedes-Benz F-CELL, world drive

image via Daimler

Merecedes said the world tour would last 125 days (no mere coincidence there; the company happens to be celebrating its 125th birthday this year). The company described a route through 14 countries, from southern Europe, through France, Spain and Portugal, to North America to hit both the United States and Canada, then over to and across Australia, onto Asia, and through China, Kazakhstan, Russia and finally northern Europe.

The B-Class F-Cell can go about 240 miles before needing to refill – and it’s that refilling that might present the biggest market hurdle in the United States. California leads the nation in charging locations, but even it only has around 20, according to the U.S. Energy Department.

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Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.