Mercedes-Benz debuts hydrogen F125, electric B-Class E-Cell Plus

Mercedes-Benz unveils the F125 concept vehicle, a hydrogen fuel cell-powered luxury vehicle with a range of more than 600 miles. Also, the compact B-Class E-Cell Plus.

Mercedes-Benz this week debuted a svelte, hydrogen-powered replacement for its S-Class and a compact battery-electric model with a range-extending gasoline engine not unlike the Chevrolet Volt.

The German automaker unveiled its tremendous F125 at the Frankfurt Motor Show this week, its first "sustainable" model intended to demonstrate the potential of the fuel cell to achieve zero-emissions transportation.

(What's the "F" stand for, you ask? "Forschungsfahrzeug," German for "research vehicle.")

A massive luxury sedan, the concept employs a hydrogen fuel cell paired with a lithium-sulfur battery to manage a 1,000 -- yes, three zeroes -- kilometer range, or about 621 miles. There's an electric motor installed at each wheel for a collective output of 313 horsepower, and the hydrogen tank is integrated directly into the vehicle's shell.

The F125 is so named to reflect the automaker's 125th anniversary. It contains a "high proportion" of carbon fiber, seats four passengers and envelops them in display, control and communication offerings never before seen on the company's production vehicles.

"You could say that the F125 is a smartphone you can sit in," MB chief Dieter Zetsche said in a statement.

On the other end of the size spectrum, the company also introduced its all-new compact B-Class, a new segment for the company.

The model will come with a selection of engines -- four, including a diesel version -- but the real star is the E-Cell Plus version, an electric model that boasts a 600 km (373 mi) range.

It's the company's first electric car with a range extending gasoline engine, much like the Chevrolet Volt that hit the streets earlier this year. The point is to help transition customers to electric powertrains while the technology matures; the vehicle can go 100 miles on battery alone before the gasoline engine kicks in.

The automaker took pains to note that the vehicle is designed to accomodate several kinds of alternative energy sources, including hydrogen fuel cells. (It currently comes with a lithium-ion battery from Deutsche Accumotive.)

A final feature of interest: collision prevention assist, a radar‑based system that helps the car avoid rear-end collisions at speeds over 30 km/h, or about 19 m.p.h.

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