Mercedes-Benz F-Cell World Drive - Around the World in 125 Days
The adventure began in January 2011 as a party of three Mercedes-Benz B-Class vehicles with Fuel-cell technology set off westward from Stuttgart. The vehicles journeyed across four continents and 14 countries. The major milestone along the way were Paris, New Orleans, Vancouver Sydney, Shanghai, Moscow and Malmö. And the burning questions was: Does fuel cell technology have the potential to circle around the globe?
The experiment took the team across freeways, highways, on car ferries and sometimes along gravel paths. All in all, the F-Cell World Drive crossed three oceans by air. Tourist highlights such as the Louvre, the Australian outback or St. Petersburg's Cathedral were just as much a part of the trip as remote Finnish woodlands or Portuguese cliffs. Along the way, the World-Drive team ran into cowboys in Texas, lonely cactus shrubs, sedate Buddha statues and languorous Kazakh horse-drawn carts. Once around the globe with absolutely no emissions: Three Mercedes-Benz B-Class F-Cells left nothing behind – except a big impression.
125 days and exactly 30,923 kilometers later, the vehicles arrived back in Stuttgart The fuel cell had passed its toughest test and the Fuel Cell World Drive proved to the entire world the capabilities of a new technology. Fuel Cell Technology works.
MOMENTS ON A MONUMENTAL JOURNEY
AND THEY'RE OFF
The German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Formula 1 stars Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg sent off the fuel cell B-Class vehicles on their journey on January 29th. One day later, the group set off on the first leg of the trip which, over the course of two weeks, took them through France, Spain, Portugal and to the western edges of Europe.
APPEARANCES ARE DECEITFUL
The first days of the trip were rarely so sunny as on the sun-drenched fields of Champagne. The winter still had Europe tight in its clutches. The cold air at zero degrees increased the air resistance and with that the vehicles' consumption.
PARIS IN WINTER
There is less going on than usual in front of the Louvre on this Monday afternoon. Which is why it seemed all the busier at Place Charles de Gaulle, where cars run in circles in a traffic dogfight. The lively French locals marveled at the quick acceleration of the small Mercedes.
After two weeks the team reached Cabo da Roca, west of Lisbon. This is where Europe ends, and in the days that followed, the vehicles were prepared for air transport over the Atlantic. Then the journey continued in America.
KEEP HEADING STRAIGHT
A speed limit of 110 km/h occasionally proved to be challenging across the long stages of the USA leg. However, the B-Class vehicles made more progress than expected due to the decent traffic conditions. And what's more, the speed limit meant good fuel consumption values.
The asphalt in Bourbon Street is still wet from the cleaning crew that washed away the dirt left by the police horses. New Orleans' party people are still lying in bed after the warm-up party for the Mardi Gras, but the first band has already begun to play.
The horses of the cowboys are resilient, sparing, untiring, agile and fearless – all qualities that also apply to the B-Class fuel cells.
HALF-TIME: DOWN UNDER
Australia is the third continent along the way and the southernmost point of the journey. This leads the team across the somewhat shorter southern route. But this still takes two weeks. The halfway point of the World Drive is reached between Adelaide and Perth. The East-West crossing of the red continent is a 10-day trip into solitude. Not even a noteworthy number of kangaroos is there to escort the B-Class vehicles on the Australian leg of the Fuel Cell World Drive.
Many lakes and ponds in Nullarbor contain salt water. The world's largest exposed stretch of limestone bedrock is riddled with subterranean caves full of salt water from the nearby ocean.
In Australia there is no chance of breaking consumption saving records. The country is too hilly and the asphalt is too rough. Gravel paths also increase consumption levels even further.
THE JOURNEY IS THE REWARD
The final stage comprised almost half the distance of the F-Cell World Drive: Through China's dust and Siberia's woods, the journey took the team through Kazakhstan, Russia and all the Scandinavian countries and then all the way back to Stuttgart.
TENTS INSTEAD OF BRICKS
In the western province of Xinjiang, Chinese culture slowly gives way to that of the Turkic peoples of Mongolia and Central Asia. The young Uygur boy on horseback is only two years old. He will take part in his first horse race at the age of 4.
No, this isn't the famous St. Basil's Cathedral on Red Square, but rather the Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ in St. Petersburg, a city which has long challenged Moscow for the role of Russia's capital.
A HAPPY ENDING
All three B-Class vehicles made it back to Stuttgart after 125 days and roughly 31,000 kilometers. Mercedes CEO Dieter Zetsche waves the finishing flag in front of the Mercedes museum.
The targeted journey time of 125 days - in the 125th year of automobile history - was adhered to exactly. For the first great Peking to Paris motor race, Prince Scipione Borghese, who won the race in an Italian Itala with a 40 horsepower gasoline engine, needed roughly twice as much time as the fuel cell electric fleet of 2011.