History of fuel cell development at Mercedes-Benz

  • In 1994, the Mercedes-Benz NECAR proves that the fuel cell is suitable for driving vehicles
  • Continuous further development on the way to large-scale production
  • Field testing with over 100 vehicles supplies important data and experience from everyday operation
The surprise presentation of a Mercedes-Benz research vehicle with fuel cell drive was like the spark that starts a prairie fire. The proof that the fuel cell, the electrochemical power plant invented by Sir William Robert Grove in 1839, was suited to drive vehicles has been manifest to the whole world since April 13, 1994, the day on which “NECAR” (New Electric Car) captured public attention.
Since that memorable day, the sustained commitment and untiring activities of Daimler AG in matters of vehicular fuel cell drives, including the alternative fuels needed to operate them and the basic conditions which follow from them, have gained worldwide attention and respect down to the very present.
The topic of alternative propulsion systems was nothing new for the company, however. Time and again, it had engaged in research activities in this field. Precursors with respect to the use of hydrogen in the NECAR project were, above all, the sedans and vans which had been set up in the early 1980s on the basis of complex fundamental research: their piston engines burnt pure hydrogen rather than gasoline.
New energy
The idea is as simple as it is ingenious: when the elements of hydrogen and oxygen are permitted to react with each other under controlled conditions, this process generates electric energy – in a direct, chemical reaction which is also referred to as “cold combustion” by the experts.
It was to last over 120 years before Grove’s invention was revived. In the 1960s, the American National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was looking for an efficient energy system for its manned Gemini and Apollo missions. This technology also passed the practical test in submarines.
It was only on land that there was seemingly no use for this source of electricity. Too large, too heavy and too expensive – this was the verdict with respect to the direct conversion of chemical energy into electricity. It is therefore not surprising that professional circles pricked their ears when Daimler-Benz announced its plans to continue research into fuel cell technology and test its use as a source of energy for motor vehicles in 1993. Just one year late, in April 1994, the project was presented to the public.
 
 
Mercedes-Benz E-Class “Hymatic”, Die E-Class Hymatic is capable of all-wheel drive, an advantage in snow and ice.
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Mercedes-Benz E-Class “Hymatic”, Die E-Class Hymatic is capable of all-wheel drive, an advantage in snow and ice.
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Mercedes-Benz Unimog E-Drive, The Unimog E-Drive features a continuously variable traveling drive.
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Mercedes-Benz A-Class Hyper, The A-Class Hyper features astonishingly rapid acceleration.
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Hybrid drive: A synergetic combination of motors, Drive types: From left to right: conventional drive, parallel hybrid, serial hybrid, electric drive.
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Mercedes-Benz E-Class “Hymatic”, Phantom view of the MB E-Class Hymatic.
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Mercedes-Benz A-Class Hyper, Phantom view of the A-Class Hyper. The complete hybrid technology fits inside this small sedan with no problem at all.
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Hybrid drive: A synergetic combination of motors, Hybrid symbols. From left to right: combustion engine with transmission, combustion engine with generator, electric motor, tank, battery.
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Hybrid drive: A synergetic combination of motors, The principle of the hybrids.
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smart city coupe Hyper, The smart hyper is a genuine three-liter (78 mpg) car affording great driving pleasure.
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Mercedes-Benz A-Class Hyper, The A-Class Hyper features astonishingly rapid acceleration.
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Mercedes-Benz Unimog E-Drive, The Unimog E-Drive features a continuously variable traveling drive.
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smart city coupe Hyper, The smart hyper is a genuine three-liter (78 mpg) car affording great driving pleasure.
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Mercedes-Benz A-Class Hyper, The A-Class Hyper on a lifting platform. Note the powerful electric drive in the rear.
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Stationary uses of fuel cells, The “Hot Module” fuel cell power plant of MTU Friedrichshafen.
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A possible future solution: Direct-methanol fuel cell (DMFC): The development of fuel cell vehicles steadily advances.
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Awards, German Future Prize – certificate.
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Dr. rer. nat. Werner Tillmetz (2nd from left)
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Prof. Dr. Ing. Hartmut Weule
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Direct-methanol fuel cell (DMFC), The “go-cart” with direct-methanol fuel cell drive.
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Emission-free: Mercedes-Benz A-Class with electric drive.
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Awards, German Future Prize – cover page.
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Emission-free: Mercedes-Benz A-Class with electric drive. The ZEBRA battery fits safely into the sandwich floor of the A-Class.
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Dr. Ing. Jürgen K. H. Friedrich
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Stationary uses of fuel cells, A look inside the “Hot Module” fuel cell power plant of MTU Friedrichshafen.
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Awards, German Future Prize – The award winners from Daimler-Benz to the right of the German President, Roman Herzog: Dr. Günther Dietrich, Dr. Jürgen Friedrich and Dr. Werner Tillmetz (with dark full beard).
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Dr. rer. nat. Günther Dietrich
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Hybrid drive: A synergetic combination of motors, Explanation of symbols used in hybrid system diagrams.
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A 25-kW fuel cell
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A 5-kW fuel cell
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Mercedes-Benz Concept Vehicles, The next fuel cell system will be as compact as this. Dr. Günther Dietrich, Dr. Werner Tillmetz, Gerald Hornburg and Wolfram Fleck (from the left) are at work on it.
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Individual Mobility into the Future, A “methanol car” during refueling – just as simple as with conventional fuels.
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How the fuel cell works
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“Bring me the moon”, Dornier development objective: Electric car drive using fuel cell technology, example Mercedes-Benz 190.
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“Vision A,” the Mercedes-Benz A-Class forerunner introduced in 1993, was targeted as a possible “mule” or component carrier for the fuel cell technology early on.
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History of the Electrochemical Energy Converter, Original drawing of Sir William Grove’s gas voltaic battery.
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February 8, 1991: A vision takes concrete shape, Dornier: Potential applications of the fuel cell.
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The Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler-Benz, Edzard Reuter, transfers responsibility for the Ulm Research Center to his Board colleague Prof. Hartmut Weule.
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July 1997: Fuel Cell Project House, The Fuel Cell Project House pushed ahead with fuel cell technology.
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The Research Center of Daimler-Benz in Ulm at the time of its inauguration
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