A plug-in hydrogen fuel cell for the future: http://www.carmagazine.co.uk

The head of Mercedes-Benz product and strategy, Wilko Stark, outlined parent company Daimler’s plans to spend €14.5bn on research and development, half of which will go on green technologies, with €5.4bn heading for cars alone.

Mercedes confirms it will put a plug-in hybrid hydrogen fuel cell version of the GLC into production in 2017.

Mercedes will bring a plug-in hybrid fuel cell version of the GLC SUV to market next year. This is a world first, for while you can already buy a hydrogen powered vehicle from Toyota or Hyundai, the Mercedes GLC F-Cell has the added advantage of a battery pack you can plug into the mains, capable of delivering a 50km (31-mile) range.

If you find yourself running low on hydrogen, when you aren’t near a hydrogen fuel station, you will at least probably be able to find a plug. Thus the form of motivation currently most associated with range anxiety comes to absolve the range anxiety inherent in a fuel supply that is presently available only in very limited locations; together the battery and the fuel cell offer a 500km range. Hydrogen availability is improving, with Japan leading the way and Germany committed to building 400 stations by 2023.

Compared to Mercedes’ previous fuel cell unit, available for lease in the previous B-class F-Cell and tested to some two million kilometres, the one in the GLC is 30% smaller, 30% more efficient, 40% more powerful and uses 90% less platinum, helping to reduce costs.

Usefully, it also fits inside a standard Mercedes engine compartment, making it entirely possible to add hydrogen variants to other Mercedes models in the future. This would be especially easy for Mercedes with rear-wheel drive, since the GLC F-cell’s T-shaped hydrogen tank arrangement occupies the existing centre tunnel as well as replacing the conventional fuel tank; the battery pack sits above the back axle as per most plug-in hybrids.

The GLC F-cell is physically driven by an electric motor attached to the rear wheels. Mercedes won’t yet say how much it will cost – but you will be able to buy one outright and it will be offered in the UK, although perhaps not until 2018