What will highway patrol vehicles look like in 2025? That's the question posed by this year's LA Auto Show Design Challenge, and Mercedes-Benz has answered with the Ener-G-Force design concept. Despite the brief, the company's North American R&D team hasn't totally abandoned the past in looking to the future however, conceiving a rugged, fuel-cell driven concept based on the G-Class that would produce its own hydrogen from water on the fly.

Taking place concurrently with the LA Auto Show each year, the Los Angeles Design Challenge gives creative types from the major automotive houses an opportunity to forget the fetters of reality and dabble in designs that are purely science fiction. Over the years this approach has produced some visually stunning, thought-provoking (and at times head-scratching) results.

This year's brief is to "create a highway patrol vehicle that meets the challenges of a specific region’s transportation and societal conditions in 2025".

Designers from the Mercedes-Benz Advanced Design Studio in California have interpreted this brief with a concept vehicle that, while based on the classic G-Class, would cater for the increased congestion and energy-saving pressures that we can expect more than a decade from now ... as well as retaining some serious off-road capability.

While the "G" shaped LED headlight points clearly to the heritage of this concept, the boxy shape of the G-Class has been well and truly buried beneath a series of pronounced curves, while the SUV's road presence is beefed-up by way of 20-inch rims shod with imposing chunks of rubber. The windows have been scaled-down to provide extra protection for law-enforcement personnel and an array of gadgetry, including emergency lights and a 360-degree topography scanner linked to the electronic suspension system, are packed onto the roof.

The sleek lines continue at the rear where the spare-wheel compartment has been converted into a quick access tool box, but perhaps the most interesting idea floated here is not the design itself, but the electric drivetrain.

The Ener-G-Force design employs four wheel-hub motors driven by fuel cells, but instead of filling up at the pump, a “hydro-tech converter” would generate fuel using recycled water stored in tanks on the roof. The energy generated by this system would be stored in "drawers" accessed through the side skirts which could alternatively house hot-swappable battery packs.

The Mercedes-Benz designers have built a 1:1-scale model of the concept and have also toyed with the idea of a civilian version.

“The Ener-G-Force is the vision of an off-roader that, while reflecting tomorrow’s adventures, also invokes the genes of the Mercedes-Benz off-road icon, the G model," says Gorden Wagener, Director of Design at Mercedes-Benz Cars. "Modern and cool, it could also be a clue about a new beginning for the off-road design idiom of Mercedes-Benz”.

Take a browse through the gallery for more renderings and sketches.

Sources: Mercedes-Benz, LA Design Challenge