The Mercedes-Benz B-Class F-Cell was one of the stars of this company’s Los Angeles Auto Show presentation, along with no less than the super-potent CLS63 AMG. In a sense, the latter celebrates a supercar past, whereas the B-Class F-Cell more than hints at a super-efficient future.
As such, this new Benz fuel-cell electric vehicle was a great way for me to travel to Los Angeles from the company’s Carlsbad, California, Design Studios (where, by the way, I got up close with its Biome and other advanced concepts). The distance to the Los Angeles Convention Center, around 80 miles, was nothing to write home about, as I’ve already driven FCEVs from Fairbanks to Vancouver, from Las Vegas to San Diego—this one, on a single tank of hydrogen—all around the Los Angeles Basin, and from Nice to Monaco and back.
According to the company, this iteration of its FCEV program is “produced under series production conditions.” That is, the B-Class F-Cell is no lab-built one-off. It’s essentially what Mercedes will have on sale in 2015. For the time being, a limited number is being offered here in California on a 3-year lease program at $849/month. This, I must admit, is hardly chump change, though the lease does include insurance and the cost of hydrogen from your friendly local 10,000-psi station.
Don’t laugh. We already have two such stations within 8 miles of our office and another scheduled to open by the end of the year just down the street from here. That is, Orange County, California, is seen as a core community for an evolving hydrogen highway.
The B-Class, as its Euro nomenclature suggests, is what we’d call a compact. Its proportions, though, are decided different from most of this genre: An extended wheelbase of 109.4 in. packs maximal utility within a tidy overall length of 168.2 in. All of the propulsion hardware resides in a platform beneath the cabin, thus leaving excellent room up front and adequate, if not sumptuous, accommodation in the rear. The layout is also amenable to different propulsion choices, everything from those traditional choices, gasoline and diesel, out through hybrid and FCEV to pure BEV.
The FCEV’s front-drive electric motor produces 136 hp and a quick-zipping 214 lb.-ft. of torque. A top speed of 106 mph is cited, though I didn’t tempt fate on Los Angeles freeways by probing this claim. Its reported range of 270 miles could serve a lot of commuter applications in the Los Angeles Basin, though I’m not about to drive one from Fairbanks to Vancouver.
Backed by the used-car dealership network DriveTime, Carvana has been quietly selling cars online since January and delivering them to buyers in metropolitan Atlanta. Now, it’s inviting anyone in the country to pick up their purchased cars at a minimally staffed three-bay garage, sort of how you’d pick up a UPS package …
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