Try to name a few automotive revolutions that Mercedes-Benz wasn’t a part of. Yeah, I thought so. I might even take it a little bit further: try naming a few automotive revolutions in which Mercedes-Benz wasn’t one of the leading brands. You get the idea.
In the mid 00s, it was all about the fuel cell. The industry had waken up to the reality of the climate change and it was looking for solutions. Not driving anymore was clearly not acceptable so the car manufacturers had to look hard to find an equally effective one. For a moment, they settled on the liquid hydrogen fueled car.
Everybody went nuts when they heard that the only thing coming out of this kind of vehicles wasn’t some toxic gas, but pure clean H2O. Water. In no time, everyone was picturing a future where these cars would roam the countryside leaving nothing but lush vegetation behind. Time for a wake-up call.
The fuel cell is, indeed, a very promising alternative. It’s basically an electric vehicle but one that can produce its own electricity on board without burning any type of fossil fuel. Actually, without burning anything. The one element it needs to do this is hydrogen, and we all know that there’s plenty of that on Earth. Yeah, but the fuel cell needs it in liquid form, and that’s a bit more difficult to find.
The one thing that’s keeping the petrol stations from becoming hydrogen stations is the difficulty and the cost of manufacturing liquid hydrogen. Other than that, the technology is here for all of us to be driving those mobile water fountains I was talking about earlier.
Actually, the technology was there as soon as 2005, the year Mercedes-Benz presented their F 600 HYGENIUS concept. You get it: H stands for hydrogen, HY stands for hybrid, GENIUS stands for… well, me while the whole HYGENIUS name has a very clean sound to it, if you get my drift.
The electric motor it used was able to deliver a maximum output of 115 hp, but the continuous output was of just 82 hp. Bear in mind this is electrical power we’re talking about, so that should prove just about enough for what was essentially a family car.
The F 600 HYGENIUS could also function as a power generator, its 66 kW output being more than enough to supply electricity for a few one-family houses.
Back to when it wasn’t playing power-plant, the F 600 HYGENIUS had a few INGENIOUS features of its own. The surplus power generated by the fuel cell was stored in the lithium-ion battery located under the passenger compartment and could be used for features such as cooling or heating the beverages in the cupholders or powering any appliance you could think of via a conventional power outlet. Fancy vacuuming your car while on the move? Of course not, but you could still do it.
In tone with the low energy consumption of the car, the F 600 HYGENIUS was the first Mercedes-Benz to use full LED lights, something only the recently launched S-Class can brag with. The car also had side cameras that monitored blind spots and warned the driver of potential hazards.
Safety was of very high importance as well. The preemptive safety system called PRE-SAFE which was already in use at that time on the 2002 S-Class was further refined. It featured two new additional protection systems which targeted the head and knees of the two front occupants.
The interior was highly modular and design to fulfill the needs of a family while maintaining a luxurious feel. The rear seats could slide backwards to increase the already generous distance of 95 centimeters between the two rows. The boot lid was split into two parts allowing for an easy opening in cramped spaces while the rear bumper pull out for easier loading or to provide sitting opportunities while on picnik. Also, the front doors of the F 600 HYGENIUS swivel upwards a little taking up less space when opened than conventional doors.
The F 600 HYGENIUS, then, wasn’t all about the drivetrain. But then again, no Mercedes-Benz concept car is ever about just one thing.