In 1994, Mercedes-Benz unveiled the first vehicle in Europe to be equipped with fuel cells suitable for everyday use. NECAR1 (New Electric Car), a Mercedes-Benz van model MB 100 already had several thousand miles on the clock when it was launched. This is because it had been operating on the streets of Germany with its revolutionary electric drive system since December 1993
The research vehicle was more of a mobile lab than a vehicle for everyday use. Weighing in at 800 kg, its already quite compact yet still voluminous fuel-cell electricity generating system with hydrogen fuel, an electronic control system, compressor, cooling and hydrogen tank, and a range of measuring equipment, filled the whole load compartment. The system delivered an output of 50 kW. The compressed-gas tank, designed for a pressure of 300 bar, had a capacity of 150 litres – enabling a range of approx. 130 km The electric motor develops 30 kW (41 hp), enabling the NECAR 1 to reach speeds of up to 90 km/h.
In developing this vehicle, Daimler-Benz demonstrated to a global public the essential feasibility of fuel-cell technology to power electric drive systems. It also highlighted its key advantages: It is far more efficient at energy conversion than any other system used at the time for powering vehicles.