The Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District has scored a zero-emissions win by operating the Mercedes-Benz F-Cell as a supervisor's vehicle, effectively the first fuel cell-powered fire response vehicle. The Fire Service Mercedes-Benz F-Cell features a number of upgrades on the standard model with decals, lights, sirens and lots of red paint, the operation of which is expected to provide valuable real-world data on fuel cell operations.
Fuel cells release energy from the reaction of hydrogen with a catalyst and oxygen. This clean technology operates at a high level of efficiency and is true zero-emissions. DaimlerChrysler now has the largest fleet of fuel cell vehicles in the world, over 100, with almost 2 million miles logged, and has invested more than $1 billion in fuel cell technology. The DaimlerChrysler fleet includes medium-duty fuel cell Dodge Sprinter vans and more than 35 Mercedes-Benz Citaro fuel cell buses, which operate in Europe, the United States, Japan, Australia and Singapore.
The entire fuel cell system, developed by Ballard Power Systems, is housed in the floor of the vehicle, leaving full use of the passenger and cargo spaces. Range is around 100 miles / 160 km with a respectable top speed of 85 mph / 137 km/h. You might never make it to that speed though as the acceleration from the 88 hp / 65 kW electric motor offers only a glacial 0 to 60 mph in 16 seconds.
The compressed-gas cylinders in the F-Cell vehicles are lightweight and robust. Enveloped in carbon fiber, these aluminum containers can withstand a pressure of over 800 bar.
Analysis: Honestly when I first read the headline I was expecting a huge, red ladder truck straight out of Backdraft. So the fact that its a red A-Class with flashing lights was a bit disappointing. Still, you have to start somewhere and credit to DaimlerChrysler for putting their fuel cell technology out in the field for real-world testing. Considering that hydrogen-powered fuel cells emit only pure water vapor as exhaust, they really are one of the technologies we'd all like to see succeed.