April 28, 2009 When studio shots emerged of the Mercedes-Benz F-CELL Roadster design study last month, it wasn't something we were necessarily expecting to see out-and-about. The curious mixture of early automotive design elements and 21st Century technology stretched its legs (at a top speed of 25kmh) by covering a section of the historic route taken by Bertha Benz more than 120 years ago in a Benz Patent Motor Wagon.
The F-CELL Roadster's tour began in Mannheim, taking in Ladenburg and Heidelberg to finish at the chemist’s shop in Wiesloch - significant because in 1888 that's where Bertha, the wife of Carl Benz, topped-up on fuel during the the first long-distance journey in automobile history.
And the point of the exercise? Like the design study itself, the recreation of the historic journey is aimed at highlighting the parallels between the current major shifts occurring in transport technology and the era when cars first began to roll. "This trip by the F-CELL Roadster is symbolic of the current change taking place in automobile engineering", said Dr. Thomas Weber, the Daimler AG Executive Board member responsible for corporate research and development at Mercedes-Benz Cars. "At that time Bertha Benz was not yet able to purchase the petrol she needed at a filling station, and for emission-free mobility we are also dependent on the widespread distribution of fuels for the future – electric power and hydrogen."
Bertha actually filled up at a pharmacy, which in those days held stores of given "Ligroin" or petrol. Perhaps by 2015 pharmacies will stock hydrogen.
Apart from its ungainly looking large spoked wheels which give a nod to the Benz Patent Motor Wagon of 1886, the F-CELL features drive-by-wire technology and a 1.2 kW fuel cell system. It's top speed is 25 km/h and it has an operating range of up to 350 km.