- “To date, Daimler has made more progress with fuel cell technology than any another automaker and we plan to expand our lead in this area.”
- Dieter Zetsche, CEO of Daimler.
Automobiles powered by AFCC fuel cell technology were first introduced in 1994 with the introduction of Daimler’s NECAR (New Electric Car). With room only for a driver, the fuel-cell system and the accompanying hydrogen tanks, the vehicle was impractical. Two years later, Daimler rolled out the NECar 2 where the fuel cells were smaller and more powerful allowing the van to seat six people.
Since the 1990’s, Daimler and Ford have placed over 280 vehicles worldwide powered by AFCC technology, accumulating over 8.5 million kilometres. With each generation of technology, AFCC has reduced costs, improved efficiency, durability, performance, and enabled the vehicles to operate in sub-zero temperatures.
These vehicles have demonstrated how transparent the performance of a fuel cell vehicle is in comparison to gasoline internal combustion engine cars.
- Ford’s global fleet of 30 Focus hydrogen fuel cell cars has accumulated more than 1.2 million miles in real world testing.
- Daimler’s fleet of 60 A-Class hydrogen fuel cell cars has operated on three continents and accumulated more than 2 million miles.
To date, AFCC has made great strides in reducing fuel cell cost by more than one-half, doubling the lifetime of the fuel cell, and decreasing the size of the fuel cell so it can now be easily positioned under the hood or in the floorboard of the vehicle.
With early commercialization of fuel cell vehicles projected in the 2017 timeframe, AFCC’s focus is on reducing costs, improving durability and preparing for the economies of scale found in mass production. AFCC has a clear path of achieving cost parity with incumbent technology through:
- Design improvements including elimination of redundant components and co- development of common components such as compressors, valves and humidifiers without impacting vehicle brand or driving performance;
- Improved fuel cell component technologies in the catalyst, membrane, and bipolar plate areas
- Production technologies
- Mass manufacture.
With the world’s largest automakers clearly seeing fuel cell vehicles as an integral part of their technology response to global warming and energy securing, there is a need to concurrently expand the hydrogen infrastructure. Vehicles and stations must be placed together in a manner that makes efficient use of government and industry resources.