by Adrian-Liviu Dorofte

Mercedes-Benz Embraces Alternative Power

Guest Article by Imogen Reed*

It is well understood that vehicles powered by fossil fuels are expensive to run and damaging to the environment. With the cost of petrol and gas soaring, making motoring ever-more costly for the consumer, it is no wonder manufacturers like Mercedes Benz are embracing innovative fuel technology.

There are now a range of alternative fuel types available, including ethanol, biodiesel, natural gas, propane and hydrogen. They aim to reduce the planet’s dependency on fossil fuels, while decreasing vehicle pollution levels. Some of these fuels can even be domestically produced, with a view to reducing the world’s reliance on imports from afar.

Using hydrogen as a fuel

In 2011, Mercedes-Benz revealed the F 125! concept car, which boasted an innovative hydrogen storage solution. Hydrogen could be the ideal alternative fuel in many ways. It can be domestically produced using nuclear power, hydropower, and other renewable sources, and it doesn’t emit any pollution into the atmosphere. However, harnessing the power of the fuel does not come without its challenges.

Not only have automobile designers had the difficulty of producing a safe and cost-effective hydrogen infrastructure, but they’ve had to deal with the on-board storage on hydrogen in a vehicle. Experts agree that the best solution currently is fuel-cell cars, featuring 700 bar compressed hydrogen, and plan is to start commercialising early hydrogen vehicles in 2015.

But this on-board fuel-cell system has been problematic in terms of design, mostly due to the storage of the cylinders. Hydrogen cylinders are expensive, heavy and large, adding to the expense of vehicles, reducing the amount of space available in the cabin and restricting the design possibilities.

 However, the Mercedes-Benz F 125! concept car integrates a hydrogen fuel tank into the structure of the vehicle using metal-organic frameworks. This has been designed as a full-cell hybrid model and it absorbs hydrogen gas molecules at pressures of just 20-30 bar – eliminating any difficulties in storing bulky hydrogen tanks.

The Plug Power fuel cell

Mercedes-Benz is steaming ahead with its plans to implement hydrogen-fuelled vehicles. In July of this year, the esteemed manufacturer selected the Power Plug hydrogen fuel cell to use in its Hyster electric life truck fleet. Power Plug is a leading provider of environmentally friendly energy solutions and the fuel-cells will replace lead-acid batteries to ensure a constant flow of power to the truck. It will eliminate the costly maintenance infrastructure and reduce the size of the area required for charging batteries.

Running on natural gas

Mercedes-Benz has experimented with more than just hydrogen and to great effect, in the natural gas-powered B 200. Although natural gas is still a fossil fuel, it emits less greenhouses gases and pollutants than both petrol and diesel.

Vehicles powered by natural gas have long been restricted to the commercial markets and the B 200 is the first passenger vehicle of its kind. It is due to hit Mercedes’ showrooms at the beginning of 2013.

As with hydrogen fuel-cells, problems have arisen regarding the storage of the gas tanks in smaller vehicles. In the B 200, the body of the car includes the Energy Space – a double floor which houses 125 litres of gas in containers. There is also a 12 litre petrol tank available, for use in the event that you run out of fuel.

In terms of performance, the B 200 has a top speed of 200 kph and offers carbon emissions of just 115 grams per kilometre.

The commercialisation of alternative fuels

Every motorist knows all too well about the ever-rising cost of fuel. Petroleum and diesel prices have rocketed in recent years based on the cost of crude oil, ACC levies and the Emissions Trading Scheme. By using alternative fuels commercial and domestic vehicle users can benefit from tax incentives, which drive down the cost of transport. With the import and export still strong in the trade sector, industry will benefit greatly from lower transport costs, which can in turn be passed on to the customers. As the cost of manufacturing alternatively fuelled vehicles comes down, bio-fuel carhire fleets will be able to offer lower deals the customers – who will also save on the cost of filling a tank. In terms of logistics, lower fuel costs mean companies can afford to sell imported products at more competitive rates – cost savings the end user can enjoy.

Alternative fuel technology offer a wealth of cost benefits to domestic and industrial drivers alike, and Mercedes-Benz continues to spearhead the campaign.

* About the author: Imogen Reed is a young professional writer and researcher with 5-year online experience. Through this period, she has collaborated with several websites and weblogs, such as Black Presence, Geeky Stuffs, Eyebridge Blog, I don't Give A Damn Blog and My Information Security Blog. She has previously wrote professional guest articles for Mercedes-Benz-Blog, which you can read HERE and HERE.

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