Wednesday 13th April 1994
Daimler-Benz unveiled a fuel cell-powered vehicle at its research centre in Ulm, Germany. Based on the MB 100 van and christened the “NeCar” (New Electric Car), the only emissions produced by the vehicle were non-combusted air and steam. The van had already run up several thousand miles by the time of its presentation, operating on German roads with its revolutionary electric drive trouble-free since December 1993. The research vehicle was more like a mobile laboratory than an automobile suited for daily use. The 800 kilograms (1,800 lbs) of the quite compact, though still voluminous, fuel cell power generation system, with hydrogen as fuel, including electronic controls, compressor, cooling system and hydrogen tank, plus a number of measuring instruments, filled the entire cargo space. The output of the total twelve fuel cell stacks from Ballard Power Systems Inc., Canada, was 50 kilowatts (kW). The tank held 150 liters (40 gallons) of compressed gas (300 bars), adequate for a range of about 130 km (80 miles). The electric motor developed 30 kW/41 hp, giving NECAR 1 a top speed of 90 km/h (56 mph). With this vehicle, Daimler-Benz proved to a worldwide audience beyond all doubt the basic suitability of the fuel cell technology as an electric vehicle propulsion system and, at the same time, highlighted its biggest advantages: its energy converting efficiency, appreciably higher than that of all drive systems previously used for automobiles employing internal combustion engines; its highest levels of environmental friendliness; and the fact that it used resources sparingly.The range and speed of NECAR 1, though still modest, encouraged all interested parties. The next objectives were to reduce the size of the system, put more efficiency into it and, of course, take weight out of it. In addition, future fuel-cell-powered vehicles from Daimler-Benz had to permit operation on methanol, a liquid fuel that can be handled almost like gasoline.