Fuel cell drive comes to commercial vehicles

Business news |
By Nick Flaherty

Daimler has presented its Concept Sprinter F-Cell as a technology carrier on the basis of a motorhome, which is to demonstrate the characteristic advantages of the fuel cell: Locally emission-free mobility and a longer driving range than battery-powered vehicles, low system weight, fast refuelling and maximum design freedom. This type of drive is also suitable for commercial applications, for example for longer courier journeys and for minibuses in interurban traffic. In future, the choice of drive system will only be determined by the application profile. The fuel cell drive will thus enter the commercial phase. “Our analyses show that the fuel cell can be a sensible extension of the drive portfolio in both the commercial and private sectors,” explained Volker Mornhinweg, head of the Daimler Vans product area.

The intelligent interaction of battery and fuel cell drive results in the Concept Sprinter F-CELL with a maximum electrical output of around 147 kW and a torque of 350 Nm. The three tanks in the substructure can store a total of 4.5 kilograms of hydrogen, which is sufficient for a range of around 300 kilometers. If a longer range is required for specific applications, the hydrogen tanks integrated in the underbody of the vehicle can be supplemented by a further one at the rear. In this configuration, the range rises up to 500 kilometres. As with the GLC F-CELL fuel cell car presented last year, the F-CELL concept sprinter combines innovative fuel cell and battery technology into a plug-in hybrid. In addition to hydrogen, electricity can also be “refuelled”. This increases the range by up to 30 kilometres.

At the same time, Daimler presented a battery-powered version of its Vito van model. The eVito is expected to be available in autumn 2018. The manufacturer wants to prove that electrified models are competitive and, depending on their intended use, can match the costs of conventional versions.

The eVito, which will soon be joined by an electrified version of the Sprinter, a larger van model, is primarily intended for urban delivery traffic and for use by craftsmen and service technicians.

An installed battery capacity of 41 kWh provides a range of around 150 kilometres. Even under unfavourable conditions, a range of 100 kilometres should be available. The battery can be completely recharged in six hours. The battery-electric drive delivers 84 kW and reaches a torque of up to 300 Newton metres. The maximum speed can be adapted to the respective application. If the eVito is mainly used in inner-city areas, a top speed of 80 km/h protects the energy reserves and increases the range. Alternatively, a maximum speed of up to 120 km/h can be configured.

Within the scope of pilot projects, logistics providers Hermes and Amazon Logistics want to test the cost-effectiveness of eVito and develop concepts for an optimal operational charging infrastructure. Amazon intends to buy 100 electric transporters from Daimler, Hermes even 1500, and specially developed apps for optimizing range, loading times and maintenance intervals play a role in these projects. Daimler’s digital service Mercedes Pro Connect analyses the driving style of the respective driver and offers intelligent load management that takes into account the state of charge.

Related articles:

Fuel cell development: Who’s in, who’s out

Toyota gets ready for mass production of fuel cells

Commercial fuel cell car roll-out imminent, Daimler hints


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