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Mercedes End Hydrogen Car Development

April 24, 2020

By Paul Homewood


Mercedes Benz are to pull out of hydrogen cars:


Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz is killing its program to develop passenger cars powered by hydrogen fuel cells. The company has been working on fuel-cell vehicles for more than 30 years — chasing the dream of a zero-emissions car that has a long driving range, three-minute fill-ups, and emits only water vapor. In the end, the company conceded that building hydrogen cars was too costly, about double the expense of an equivalent battery-electric vehicle.

Mercedes-Benz will wind down production of GLC F-Cell, its only current fuel-cell model. The GLC-F-Cell was developed in a 2013 collaboration with Ford and Nissan.

The idea of the collaboration was to kickstart the production of fuel-cell cars and hydrogen infrastructure. Mercedes-Benz was the only carmaker of the three partners to produce a vehicle in the program.

Mercedes-Benz only made a few hundred examples of the GLC F-Cell because manufacturing costs for the model were so high. The car was used for business promotions but was never offered for sale to the public.

Other automakers are giving up on hydrogen cars. In November, Honda — a longtime proponent of hydrogen-powered cars — said it would put its fuel-cell program on hold. Volkswagen published its position on hydrogen last month, producing this graphic:


Volkswagen concluded:

Everything speaks in favor of the battery, and practically nothing speaks in favor of hydrogen.


The whole concept of hydrogen cars was always a pipedream, driven by political imperatives instead of sound engineering. Quite apart from the uneconomical build costs, there is an even bigger barrier – how to produce, distribute and store hydrogen.

Electrolysis is always the go to option, but this is extremely small scale and ultra expensive. It also begs the question of where the electricity comes from.

Steam reforming is the only possible option, but this produces lots of CO2 anyway.

If your only concern is air pollution, and not CO2, then the logical answer is hybrid. If hydrogen cars really are twice the cost of electric, they will never be a viable option.

  1. April 24, 2020 4:58 pm

    ” If hydrogen cars really are twice the cost of electric”, and electric are twice the cost of gasoline and diesel, electric will never be a viable option without large subsidies.

    • Jonathan Scott permalink
      April 24, 2020 5:08 pm


  2. MrGrimNasty permalink
    April 24, 2020 5:01 pm

    Someone tell McGrath!

  3. April 24, 2020 5:21 pm

    Can anybody explain why manufacturers are making customers who want to buy new hybrid cars choose between self-charging models and plug-in mains-rechargable, rather than making models that recharge the batteries both ways?

  4. Nancy & John Hultquist permalink
    April 24, 2020 5:35 pm

    GM has spent about $2.5 Billion on hydrogen. Going-Nowhere Concepts (GNC) have been produced. See: General Motors Hy-wire
    One can join the US Army and maybe drive one of these: Chevy Colorado ZH2

    I think the magazine Scientific American had articles touting (promoting energetically) Hydrogen autos; maybe 15 years ago. When the magazine went climate crazy we did not renew so what has been printed since, I would not know.

    • Jonathan Scott permalink
      April 24, 2020 5:37 pm

      I also dropped Scientific American when they stopped being impartial and “scientific” and adopted a politically motivated role. It was a sad day for me.

  5. Jonathan Scott permalink
    April 24, 2020 5:36 pm

    Obviously Mercedes did not spend enough of their effort trying to get subsidies, What stupid people, trying to achieve excellence by engineering in a time when deceit and smoke and mirrors brings untold wealth. I smile when I see those who crow about the only emission of hydrogen burn being water vapour …whooopeee in there brainless obsession to rid the world of CO2, the gas of life. Seems none of them took physics beyond kindergarten because if they had they would question the whole basis of the greenhouse effect which both Freeman Dyson and William Happer say if it does exist ( No empirical data exists to verify its effect) its effect will be trivial in absolute terms. The supporters of the greenhouse effect absurdly ignore the overwhelming contribution of ….WATER VAPOUR as the main (trivial) greenhouse gas. You just have to compare the signature on the electromagnetic spectrum of Water Vapour to CO2 to realize there is a serious problem with the argument against CO2 as the main cause EVEN IF the claimed Greenhouse effect were anything more than a trivial effect . SUBSIDIES… That is the key to profit in the Weeenewabwles world… you make your cash from the subsidies stolen from the pockets of hapless tax payers. The charlatans who do profit from the green scam count among the most despicable people alive.

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      April 25, 2020 12:00 pm

      Water vapour as a pollutant – ie: GHG – has long been an argument I have put fwd against F-Cells. ICE cars are taxed on how many grams of CO² per kilometre are emitted: the next time someone like Harrabin starts banging on about how good F-Cells are ‘because they only emit water vapour’, they should be asked: how many g/km of vapour is that? And then ask him if he believes water vapour is a more or less effective GHG than CO².

  6. April 24, 2020 6:01 pm

    Never mind, you can get a Toyota Mirai hydrogen car for under £70k on a good day. Or about three new fuel burners for the same outlay.

  7. cajwbroomhill permalink
    April 24, 2020 6:18 pm

    How did “Establishment” members worldwide latch on to such non-scientific twaddle as the CO2-climate hypotheses?
    Those listening to Greta T. and the like are no less gullible.

    • Graeme No.3 permalink
      April 25, 2020 9:18 am

      It has been floating around academia for close on 40 years. I had a book about the coming Hydrogen Economy printed in (from memory) 1991. Wishful thinking coupled with an inability to cost the project. I gave it away some years ago as not realistic.

      • It doesn't add up... permalink
        April 25, 2020 11:28 am

        Longer than that. I recall a magazine as a child that offered the concept of the hydrogen economy as a possible future. I think that was from the days when nuclear was going to be too cheap to meter.

  8. Thomas Carr permalink
    April 24, 2020 7:08 pm

    Good to see Nancy and John Hultquist writing again.

    There has even been some effort to power railway passenger vehicles in the UK by Hydrogen. As I understand it more power is required from whatever fuel used to create and store hydrogen than the power achieved by the process. Surely such a squandering of precious assets would have no appeal for the Extinction mob.

    The obtuse refusal to acknowledge how much power is required to build, transport, install and service some of the green generators merely supports the fallacy of their creation . As for car traction batteries, who will guarantee their performance beyond five to eight years?

    • Gerry, England permalink
      April 25, 2020 2:47 pm

      if you have been watching Rob Bell’s Walking Railways series it featured the UK’s only battery powered train that ran on the Aberdeen to Balmoral line. It is still there as a musem piece with the line closed down. It had just enough power to go the length of the line with recharging required at each end, and that explains why it was the only one – just not practical. Battery weight was mentioned.

      Down my way the London – Uckfield line runs the only diesel service into the southern terminals and has to go to London Bridge only. It has been suggested that instead of the cost of electrifying the line, it could be a battery service until it meets the East Grinstead line and then run electric. But the issue is carrying the weight of the batteries which spend a lot of time redundant. At least the diesel fuel load decreases and provides for heating, and is very good if traction power fails but the infrastructure doesn’t so it can still run.

  9. April 24, 2020 8:26 pm

    Maurice Strong and Al Gore recruited them.

    Does this help? Its clear from the tone that the EIR has something of an agenda, but I doubt the connections and who made them are false. Caveat lector.

    Why were these connections made and what was done through them is clearly harder to confirm. I doubt Phil the GReek is as corrupt as Tony BLair, for examle, but Blair went totally mad for carbon reduction legislation and subsidies…that we know don’t work. Why would he do that?

    Do to you smell any rats yet? Strong is well reported by Elaine Dewar in “Cloak of Green”. He spent his last years a wanted man hiding from justice in his sociocapitalist wonderland of China, with $1M of the UN’s aid money sticking to his personal fingers.

    There is a lot of money to be made for banks and wealthy insiders in carbon credit trading, and they have the power or influence to put the legal instruments to make them compulsory by law in their countries.

    This may help further ….

  10. Stuart Brown permalink
    April 24, 2020 9:58 pm

    Methane. If we can’t just frac for it, then how about as an energy carrier? We need to make electricity, power vehicles and heat houses.

    The US has reduced its CO2 emissions way more than most by generating electricity from it. So have we in the UK. CCGT gas power stations not only emit less CO2 per MW than coal fired equivalents, but are more efficient to boot. All of this happens at industrial scale today, all over the planet.

    There are over 27 million methane powered vehicles in the world, and over 30,000 filling stations. Most in Asia PAC, 2m vehicles in Europe and 5m in S America. Not so popular in the UK and the States, so we don’t hear about them! Industrial scale, infrastructure is there, works, tried and tested. You can power trucks and ships with it, too. And busses eg the Mercedes Citaro (According to Wikipedia there are only 7.7m EVs globally, not so many trucks.)

    Heating for homes is just a given in the UK at least. 86% of homes. It’s very efficient, in the 90%+ range. Infrastructure exists today here and in many other countries.

    If we had to pick one fuel isn’t this the one? You can even make it from electricity:

    Of course making methane from electricity and then burning it later to make electricity again loses you 75% of the energy you started with, but we don’t care about that when saving the planet, do we? (/s) Anyway, hydrogen, ammonia, boron, formic acid or any of the other even more bonkers energy carriers require such a huge investment in new infrastructure that they surely make little sense by comparison.

    • April 25, 2020 1:13 pm

      True but WHY? Methane is bulky in pressurised gas form. And there is a lot of diesel and Petrol and the CO2 outputs bversus methane are similar – if that mattered. Stil burning hydrocarbons to produce water and CO2.

      AND there won’t be anu y gas as planned…. UK government is about to ban gas for new home heating, in spite of the fact the electrical heating legislated will produce more CO2 at 60% efficiency for CCGT plus grid losses than the 90% plus use of the energy where needed gas boilers. The idea renewables can produce all the electrical enrgy is simply daftas it doesn’t scale and the 30% duty cycle menas 70% bcakup by fossil is ezzential, i unless they build the new nuclear. And that’s without the additional demand imposed by law.

      Green delusion at work for insider profit. Renewables can’ t deliver more than a fraction of our current energy use, Never mind the doubling for heating and another 100% for transport.

      • Stuart Brown permalink
        April 25, 2020 5:56 pm

        Brian – I agree with every word! Making methane from electricity is harder than making hydrogen, but using the methane is easier, if only because we already have the infrastructure in place. Making diesel out of electricity is even harder/uneconomic but it is technically possible – and as you say, even easier to use.

        Mercedes never sold any H2 powered cars and didn’t even try. They do sell CH4 powered busses. Carbon dioxide free electricity from nuclear is also a tried and tested technology, which could be used to make methane (and diesel if you like), which arguably makes the whole cycle ‘carbon’ free if you use the CO2 emitted back at the power station to make more methane.

        It’s all more expensive and dafter than just drilling the natural gas out of the ground, then letting plants eat the resulting CO2. Just convinced manufactured methane is a better bet than hydrogen, if we have to close that loop.

      • April 25, 2020 7:52 pm

        You. I also agree with every word you just wrote – group hug! :-). Taking water apart is energy intensive as is making liquid fuel synthetically by putting the exhaust back together, lot of energy wasted.

        I recall that I was signing off natural gas powered cars for my Dutch company in the 80’s, as they had a lot, but the boots were full of gas bottle. Fork lift trucks and presumably other “indoor” ICE machines were also powered by gas, because of the totally clean exhaust I imagine? Using intense primary fuels directly at the point of use will always be the best way to extract the most energy from them, given the same level of technology is applied to both processes.

        FYI I have done a calculation on the relative cost of petrol, electricity and synthetic petrol made with nuclear electricity at Hinkley Point CfD rates that David MacKay helped me with, using the back of a shared virtual envelope. If you are interested I think you can PM me? Brian RL Catt is easy to find if not 🙂

      • Stuart Brown permalink
        April 26, 2020 5:41 pm

        Thank you, Brian, but I’ve not much to add to all this. (I did look at but you seem to have abandoned it at birth?)

        I used to have long discussions with my father about this (who worked in the UK nuclear industry most of his career, and was completely sold on the hydrogen economy). At the time I was something of a renewables fan – I was young and a student, and who agrees with their Dad anyway! It was MacKay’s book that pushed me to look at all this more closely, years later.

        Your calculations are probably worth a post of their own?

      • May 1, 2020 7:26 pm

        Were these the back of the envelope calculations on synthetic fuel costs? I link the paper below. Comment welcome.

        This was intended to scale the basic technical idea. David’s paper is also referenced.. The reality of making synthetics is not debatable. It’s a reversible chemical reaction and has been done. It will make more sense with cheaper energy when nuclear enrgy construction costs have reduced with volume production as fossil really does decline one day and renewables have failed to replace them, as they must on the simple physics and the massive additional problems of their technologies and intermittencies at grid scale. Synthetic liquid hydrocarbons well be essential for air transport, or another intense liquid fuel
        LOX and Liquid Hydrogen is probably a bit over the top for routine air travel.

  11. April 25, 2020 2:58 am

    Hindenburg anniversary is in two weeks time…

  12. Sobaken permalink
    April 25, 2020 10:58 am

    Isn’t this bad news, considering that many nations passed laws to only allow sale of zero emission cars past a certain date? Unless those policies are rescinded, your only option going forward will be electric, with their puny range, day long charging times, and ultra expensive batteries requiring replacement every few years.

    • Gamecock permalink
      April 26, 2020 2:57 pm

      Buy used.

  13. It doesn't add up... permalink
    April 25, 2020 11:36 am

    Vorsprung durch Realität.

  14. April 25, 2020 6:56 pm

    A lucid moment for a great vehicle builder. Now get back to ICE development. There is still a lot of oomph in Natural Gas engines. Or am I dreaming?

  15. Gas Geezer permalink
    April 27, 2020 12:04 am

    This begs the question , are hydrogen boilers really viable? Baxi seem to think so.

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