LUXURYCULTURE.COM - Back to the Future


The latest vehicle from Mercedes-Benz is part concept car and part homage to the first gasoline powered automobile. We showcase the sustainable F-Cell Roadster, a car that is as futuristic as it is historically influenced.

It was in 1886 when Karl Benz designed the Benz Patent Motor Car, the world’s first gasoline powered automobile. With three large spoked wheels and an open carriage-style body, it bares little resemblance to the aerodynamically designed cars of today. But as Mercedes-Benz once again considers alternative methods of power, one car design has emerged that recalls the classic styling of the original Benz.

The F-Cell Roadster was conceived with the object of investigating alternative drive systems within the Mercedes-Benz trainee programme. More than 150 trainees and students of Daimler AG at the Mercedes-Benz Sindelfingen plant worked for more than a year on its development.

Central to the F-Cell is its emission-free fuel cell system which provides enough power to reach a top speed of 25km/h and an operating range of up to 350km. Drive-by-wire technology (which replaces traditional mechanical and hydraulic control systems with electronic control systems) is installed and a joystick takes the place of the conventional steering wheel.

As impressive as its environmentally friendly power source and pioneering technology is, it is the F-Cell’s design that is its most innovative feature. Not only does it take the large spoked wheels and open structure of Karl Benz’s original 1886 design, but also its front bonnet is inspired by the nose of Formula 1 cars. Arm-like doors open upwards, harking back to the classic Mercedes Gullwing of 1954, and a transparent engine bonnet is borrowed from supercars such as Lamborghinis and Ferraris.

The F-Cell might be a mongrel of stylistic elements from diverse eras of automotive history but the end result is a thoroughbred of a unique design.

While Mercedes admits that the F-Cell was only ever intended as a training project and will not go into production, it has provoked debate as to the future of automobile design. As renewable power and sustainability are increasingly given priority over speed, cars will be designed within a different set of requirements. According to the trainees of Mercedes Benz, that will mean a revolution in car design that looks back to the future.

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