The Mercedes-Benz "NECAR II" is the world's first vehicle powered by a fuel cell suitable for everyday use. An electric vehicle without batteries, the NECAR II is powered by the controlled reaction of hydrogen and water in an on-board fuel cell. The reaction produces no emissions (except pure water), almost no heat and quietly generates on-board electric power. Substantially more energy efficient than a battery powered electric and not utilizing electricity generated by conventional power plants, the NECAR II is by far the world's most environmentally friendly car.
Mercedes first fuel cell vehicle"NECAR I" was essentially a mobile laboratory in a large Mercedes van capable of transporting a driver and passenger, but so full of components that there was room for little else. Progress in design and engineering of the fuel cell system has reduced its bulk so that NECAR II offers virtually the same interior space as a conventional vehicle.
NECAR II can carry up to six people at speeds over 60 miles per hour, has lively acceleration and a range of over 150 miles on full gas tanks. Filling up means a stop for a shot of high pressure gaseous hydrogen and anyone remembering the Hindenberg realizes that while this detail can be dealt with, considerable safety precautions are required. The oxygen necessary for the fuel cells is not carried on board, but actually taken from the air.
Enthused by the progress in the program, Prof. Dr. Hartmut Weule, board member of Daimler-Benz AG in charge of research, now feels that the fuel cell technology could be ready for production as soon as 2010. New research is studying the possibilities of using a liquid fuel such as methanol and converting this fuel into hydrogen on-board, to eliminate the tricky hydrogen refueling process. As we look at all the possibilities for zero-emissions vehicles, Mercedes fuel cell technology is one of the most promising. NECAR II is already up and running!
by REXX TAYLOR