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Daimler sends fuel cell cars on 125-day trip around the globe

Three fuel-cell powered Mercedes-Benz cars have set off on a global tour to show that the pioneering days of the 125-year-old company are far from over.

Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche

CEO Zetsche sends his zero-emission car around the world

Three Mercedes-Benz B-Class fuel cell vehicles will travel 30,000 kilometers across four continents and through 14 countries, finishing in Stuttgart where they started on Sunday.

The journey will last 125 days, including 70 days of driving. The drivers will head to Lisbon before crossing to North America and Australia. The final leg runs from Shanghai to Moscow and then Stockholm before returning to Daimler's home town.

First in the world

With the tour, Daimler aims to confirm the technical maturity of hydrogen fuel cell technology and its suitability for everyday use. It also aims to promote the creation of comprehensive service station infrastructure for fuel cell vehicles, the company said in a statement.

Fuel-cell powered plane

Hydrogen fuel cell technology could power airplanes someday

With the development of its NECAR 1 in 1994, Daimler became one of the first carmakers in the world to equip a vehicle with fuel cell technology. Ever since, the German auto giant has been working hard to overcome the challenges of making the technology ready for the mass market.

Hydrogen fuel cells create electricity by converting hydrogen and oxygen into water vapor. As simple as that process may sound, it's highly complex, requiring numerous systems to control the reaction, extract the electric current and store the energy. A key challenge is to pack all that complexity into a system small enough to fit into a car, yet powerful enough to provide the many functions of a conventional car, such as lights, air conditioning and rapid acceleration.

Chicken-and-egg challenge

With its B-Class model, Daimler believes it has mastered most of these challenges. The current model sandwiches the equipment under the floor and can start in freezing temperatures. It also has a range of about 400 kilometers, and can accelerate to 100 kilometers per hour in 11.4 seconds.

The Stuttgart-based company has also been at the forefront of overcoming the "chicken-and-egg" challenge that new technologies often face. It is involved in several initiatives in Germany and beyond to help build the critical infrastructure to support and refuel cell-powered vehicles.

At the launch ceremony on Sunday, Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche said the fuel cell vehicles' global tour demonstrates that the manufacturer has "sufficient pioneering spirit for at least another 125 years of innovation."

Author: John Blau (dpa, AP)
Editor: Sam Edmonds

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