The new Mercedes-Benz F 125! research car combines futuristic control concepts with visionary drive technologies.
On January 29, 1886, Carl Benz applied for a patent for his motor car at the Imperial Patent Office. Patent No. 37435 was approved, thereby making Carl Benz the inventor of the automobile. Other designs for automobiles with combustion engines were similar to Benz’ – but none were as consistent as that of the inspired tinkerer from Mannheim, Germany. The automobile has been an unparalleled success story during the 125 years that have passed since then.
A new chapter in the successful history of automobiles is now being written, as we head toward local zero-emission driving in an era of exhaust-free environmentally friendly mobility. Some experts even go so far as to proclaim the reinvention of the automobile – and they may be right. That’s because the automobile of tomorrow will offer so many opportunities that its wheels might, in a sense, be the only thing it has in common with the cars we know today.
Mercedes-Benz’ new F 125! research vehicle is at the forefront of technological progress. Its name recalls the past and Carl Benz’ invention. But more than anything else, the vehicle looks far forward into the future of individual mobility – and what can be accomplished with the 125 years of knowledge and experience that have been gained since the automobile was invented.
Mercedes-Benz engineers and designers have thought ahead two vehicle generations to the year 2025 and beyond to develop a true car of the future with equipment and features never before seen in the automotive world. These visionaries nevertheless stuck to what’s feasible: The F 125! is not a study that’s just meant to get us thinking – one that simply stands there without moving. Rather, the F 125! is a fully functional research laboratory on wheels. The designers used the car to explore the future of the automobile and obtain new knowledge that can be applied to the mobile world of tomorrow.
This makes the F 125! a research vehicle in the truest sense of the word. From its bodyshell concept, drive system technology, and control, communication, telematics, and safety systems to its overall design – the F 125! redefines the luxury automobile in every respect. It’s a vehicle such as the world has never seen. It’s difficult to know where to begin when something offers so many new and innovative things.
Perhaps it’s best to start with the drive system, since this component will play a decisive role if mobility is to have a promising future. The F 125! is equipped with a zero-emission electric drive system that includes four electric motors installed near the wheels on the front and rear axles. Electronic controls continually ensure optimal power distribution to all four wheels through a concept that Mercedes-Benz refers to as “e4MATIC.” Electricity is generated onboard in a fuel cell through a chemical reaction involving hydrogen and oxygen. The only by-product of the reaction is water vapor. Additional power is provided by an efficient braking energy recovery system.
The energy storage concept in the research vehicle is a true innovation: The concept of the F 125! includes a lithium-sulfur battery with a capacity of 10 kilowatt-hours; this unit is installed behind the rear seats. The most important benefit associated with the battery is the high specific energy density of its cells, which has made it possible to reduce the battery’s size and weight. Although further research into this type of battery is still required, the developers of the F 125! believe it will be possible to increase its energy density to 350 kilowatt-hours per kilogram – or double the density currently possible – in the next ten to 15 years. The battery can be inductively charged at special charging stations that require no power cables. Drivers simply pull up and park in the charging area.
The F 125! also features a pioneering system for storing the hydrogen used in the fuel cells. A composite tank storage unit structurally integrated into the vehicle can accommodate approximately 7.5 kilograms of hydrogen. Here, researchers used so-called metal organic frameworks (MOF), which are porous solid components consisting of numerous identical basic elements. Thanks to a modular design concept, these elements can be combined in an extremely variable manner. They also have very large specific surfaces, which is why they are able to store such a large amount of hydrogen.
All of these efforts have resulted in a range of as much as 1,000 kilometers for the F 125! That’s roughly the same distance a modern diesel vehicle can travel on a full tank today. Like a diesel car, the F 125! is fully suitable for everyday use; but unlike today’s diesel vehicles, it produces absolutely no local emissions.
In this sense, the F 125! marks an important step toward series production of luxury fuel cell automobiles. And that brings us to another important aspect of the research vehicle: the plan to position it in the upper-range and luxury segments. This is a very challenging and also an important objective. After all, if it is achieved, Mercedes-Benz will have successfully demonstrated that large, comfortable, and safe sedans are headed for a great future. The bodyshell concept for the four-seat F 125! is geared toward this ambitious goal. For one thing, both the front and rear overhangs have been reduced to a minimum. This has made it possible to use an extremely long wheelbase of 3,333 millimeters. It has also led to a very spacious interior and gull-wing doors along the entire vehicle width. As a result, the driver and passengers have excellent access to their seats.
The body of the F 125! is based on an innovative hybrid lightweight construction with a large proportion of fiber-reinforced plastics, aluminum, and high-strength steels. As a result, it has been possible to substantially reduce the vehicle’s weight, while significantly improving safety. The research vehicle’s high-strength structure with crash-responsive protection systems inside the doors makes it possible to eliminate the B-pillars and therefore use full gull-wing doors.
Mercedes engineers and designers have lent the interior of the F 125! a lounge-like atmosphere. Switches can be used to move the rear seat from an upright position to a chaise longue position. The seat cushion extends forward while a footrest folds out at the same time, ensuring an extremely comfortable resting position. The front passenger seat backrest can also be completely folded down to create a spacious lounge environment and a clear view of a retractable 17-inch display mounted in the instrument panel in front of the passenger seat. The interior also makes a big impression with its futuristic high-quality look. The design lines are based on those found in nature, as are the materials used – most notably wood, Alcantara, and silk.
Mercedes-Benz brings together all the new control, infotainment, and telematics features in the F 125! with its “@yourCOMAND” system. The vehicle complies with all wishes in a very pleasant manner. “Natural handling” is what the developers of the F 125! call their control concept, which mainly utilizes natural voice commands supplemented with intuitive gestures and touching. Examples here include using speech to call up e-mails, using gestures to open and close the gull-wing doors or operate the 17-inch display on the passenger side of the vehicle, and entering and changing vehicle settings via intuitive touchpads.
The F 125! introduces other completely new concepts as well. They include “seamless experience,” a network of multimedia systems that are interactive but not distracting. Then there’s “remote convenience,” which enables all applications and content to be configured by remote control. “Sensory perfection” refers to high-end sound quality and high-resolution screens that display personalized information in brilliant images that in some cases take the form of 3D depictions. It’s already apparent today that more and more Internet applications will be using cloud computing in the future – in other words, linked to a virtual memory on the Web. That’s why the F 125! is also constantly connected to such a cloud. The vehicle has its own website that allows its owner to remotely set the climate control system, for example. The COMAND system of tomorrow will also be proactive. For example, drivers will be able to start their trip with a traffic report or a recital of their incoming messages before their personal music program begins. A weather report might then automatically be provided shortly before their trip ends. The F 125! also opens up completely new dimensions when it comes to external communication and the utilization of social networks. The Social Community Assistant, for example, allows drivers to decide who will be permitted to disturb them during a trip.
The F 125! is also equipped with extremely effective assistance systems that ease the burden on drivers in a sustained manner. One such system is Advanced Driving Assist for semi-autonomous driving, which makes it possible to automatically change lanes on multi-lane one-way streets or highways. When further developed, it will also carry out automated passing maneuvers. Thanks to car-to-X communication – the networking of vehicles with the external infrastructure and environment via radio – the F 125! can exchange information with other vehicles and specially equipped infrastructure components such as traffic lights, warning systems, and traffic control centers. The F 125! can therefore warn that an emergency vehicle is approaching even before the driver sees or hears it. It can even inform a driver that there is an obstacle ahead or advise him or her to allow another vehicle the right of way at an upcoming, confusing intersection.
All the technology and features in the F 125! were packed into an exciting design that’s as masterful as it is distinctive. The vehicle is a perfect example of what the sporty touring sedan of the future might look like. And, of course, it embodies the visionary further development of the Mercedes-Benz design strategy. The message being sent out by the F 125! research vehicle is clear: The future of the automobile has arrived.
Text: Rüdiger Abele
Source: www. daimler-technicity.com