Mercedes delivered the first F-Cell to a Southern California customer who is leasing the compact hydrogen vehicle for $850 per month. At least the fuel is free.

(Credit: Mercedes)

While Nissan and GM were racing to deliver their first electric and extended range electric vehicles to customers this week, Mercedes-Benz quietly handed over the keys of an F-Cell hydrogen car to its new owner in California.

Mercedes-Benz posted photos of the delivery on its Facebook page, marking the first of 70 or so hydrogen vehicles that California drivers can lease from the luxury carmaker over the next few years. The compact F-Cell uses hydrogen to power the 134-horsepower electric motor and achieves a 240-mile zero-emissions range.

Drivers can lease the vehicle from Mercedes-Benz for $850 per month--a steep price for participating in a research program--but the upside is that they won't have to pay for gas. California hasn't approved the codes and standards for measuring and dispensing hydrogen, and until then the fuel is free for fuel-cell customers at public refueling stations. When the codes are finalized, California Fuel Cell Partnership spokesperson Chris White says hydrogen will initially cost about $5-6 per kilogram. The Mercedes-Benz F-Cell holds 3.7 kilograms, so a fill-up would cost about $20, but the price of hydrogen should be halved as production ramps up over the next few years.

Even as production increases, demand will remain small. Mercedes plans to lease a total of 200 F-Cells, and the U.S. is expected to receive only a third of the fleet. The company is still fielding applications for the next batch of F-Cells, and prospective customers can apply on Mercedes-Benz's microsite. However, because hydrogen fueling stations are few and far between, interested parties need to live in the Los Angeles or San Francisco Bay area.

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