Zapfpistole an Zapfsäule


Clean power for the roads

The fuel cell is a promising technology for alternative energy sources. Researchers at Mercedes-Benz harnessed this technology for the automotive sector in 1994.

When the Briton William Robert Grove built the first functioning fuel cell in 1839, he could not have imagined its potential. The special battery, which generates electricity from hydrogen and oxygen, attracted little attention in his day. Grove was inspired by chemist Christian Friedrich Schönbein. Christian Friedrich Schönbein, who, in 1838, had detected a current when dipping two platinum wires into sulfuric acid and applying flows of hydrogen to one and oxygen to the other. Grove began to build on and refine Schönbein’s discovery.

Many things take time – some more than 100 years. In the 1960s, NASA was looking for an energy system for the manned Gemini and Apollo missions and became aware of the potential harbored by fuel cells. The technology has also been used in submarines. In 1994, it was found that William Robert Grove’s invention was also suitable for use on land: for powering vehicles. On April 13 of that year, Mercedes-Benz presented a special van to the public: the “NECAR” (New Electric Car) was the world’s first electric vehicle without a battery, drawing its power from fuel cells. These took up the entire storage space, unlike today’s vehicles with fuel cell propulsion.

Researchers Günther Dietrich, Jürgen K.- H. Friedrich, and Werner Tillmetz worked on the idea for years.

Fuel cell for vehicle propulsion: the NECAR

Mercedes-Benz then set about minimizing the weight and volume of the fuel cell system. The NECAR 5, unveiled in 2000, carried the entire system in the underbody of the A-Class. The vehicle reached a top speed of 145 km/h, and, according to Mercedes-Benz, only needed refueling after more than 400 kilometers. The technology was refined over time and made ready for series production. In-depth research into fuel cell technology as a clean alternative to petrol vehicles is still being carried out today.


(Header: AA+W –, top right in the article: by HDP on Wikipedia licensed under CC BY- SA 2.5, bottom right in the article: by Alexander Migl on Wikipedia licensed under CC BY-SA 4.)


Motor auf Brennstoffzellenbasis
Methanol reformer of the NECAR 3
Bulli mit Motor auf Brennstoffzellenbasis
NeCar MB 180BZ

Place of invention

Mercedesstraße 137, 70327 Untertürkheim