Mercedes-Benz kicked off a world tour this weekend, aiming to prove the viability of fuel cell vehicles.

The Mercedes-Benz B-Class F CELL vehicles set off from Stuttgart January 30 in an attempt to circumnavigate the globe using only hydrogen, on a route that will take them some 30,000 kilometers through three continents and 14 countries.

The vehicles, which were driven onto the stage by Formula One drivers Michael Schumacher, Nico Rosberg and David Coulthard, are designed to prove "the high degree of maturity which has been achieved with fuel cell technology and also highlight its potential on a global basis."

Fuel cell technology has been somewhat sidelined since the emergence of the first mass market electric vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf, Mitsubishi i-MiEV and Chevrolet Volt, in part because of an issue the world tour is expected to draw attention to - the availability of hydrogen.

Although the technology for fuel cell vehicles is in place, a widespread hydrogen infrastructure isn't, with Mercedes-Benz estimating that there are only approximately 200 filling stations around the world where fuel cell vehicles can be refuelled.

Therefore, the route, which will take vehicles from Stuttgart to Lisbon via Paris, Barcelona and Madrid, on to and through the US from Florida to Los Angeles, up to Canada, over to Sydney, across to Shanghai and up through Eurasia to Moscow before heading back down to Germany via Northern Europe, has taken considerable planning.

Stops will be made at key strategic locations along the route, such as the Car2Go mobility project in Austin, Texas, and Auto Shanghai in China, but even with these a large mobile tanker will be accompanying the tour to provide fuel where necessary.

The F CELL World Drive, which is expected to last 125 days, will arrive back in Stuttgart at the beginning of June.

Last year, Tesla and watchmaker Tag Heuer sent a Tesla Roadster on a world tour which covered 36,955 kilometres, with 16 city stops including Red Square in Moscow, New Delhi, the Shanghai World Expo, Tokyo, New York, London and Paris for the opening of a new Tesla showroom.

Search for used cars