Mercedes-Benz GLC F-Cell SUV runs on both fuel cells and batteries

Mercedes-Benz may be planning to launch a fleet of electric cars under its new EQ sub-brand, but the German automaker also has plans for a hydrogen fuel-cell model.

The prototype Mercedes-Benz GLC F-Cell was unveiled last year, and the production version will make its debut at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show alongside a host of other new and updated Mercedes models.

The GLC F-Cell is exactly what the name suggests: a fuel-cell version of Mercedes’ GLC-Class small SUV. It actually uses both a fuel-cell stack and a lithium-ion battery pack that can be recharged by plugging in. Mercedes claims a range of up to 437 kilometers (271 miles) on hydrogen, plus 49 kilometers (30 miles) on the battery pack. Refilling the two carbon-fiber-encased hydrogen tanks should take a few minutes, while the battery pack takes about 1.5 hours to recharge.

Output is 197 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. The top speed is electronically limited to 99 mph, so the GLC F-Cell isn’t for speed freaks. But it is for micromanagers: different modes allow the driver to draw power from the fuel-cell stack, the battery, or both. The hydrogen tanks are housed in the centerline of the vehicle (where the driveshaft would normally go) and under the rear seat, so passenger space shouldn’t be dramatically impacted.

Mercedes claims its test vehicles have covered nearly 18 million kilometers (around 11 million miles) in all sorts of brutal conditions, but selling the GLC F-Cell may be the hard part. So far, lack of hydrogen fueling infrastructure has dampened interest in fuel-cell vehicles. In its home country of Germany, Mercedes parent Daimler is part of an initiative to install 400 hydrogen stations by 2023, and hopes to undertake similar projects in other European countries, the U.S., and Japan.

Mercedes will also be offering a fuel-cell vehicle based on an internal-combustion model at a time when other automakers are moving to dedicated models that are more distinct from their gasoline and diesel counterparts.

The Mercedes-Benz GLC F-Cell will go on sale in the U.S. by the end of 2019. Like the fuel-cell cars from Hyundai, Toyota, and Honda, the GLC F-Cell will probably be sold in limited numbers, and only where sufficient fueling infrastructure exists. That means the F-Cell may only be available in California, at least at first.

Updated: Added full specifications, photos, and U.S. on-sale date