Power, comfort and zero emissions:
Mercedes-Benz presents new research vehicle with fuel cell drive
The new F 600 HYGENIUS is the latest in the series of sensational research vehicles from Mercedes-Benz that point the way forwards for the future. Powered by a zero-emission fuel cell drive with an output of 85 kW/115 hp, the compact-class car with a family-friendly design consumes the equivalent of 2.9 litres of fuel per 100 kilometres and has an operating range in excess of 400 kilometres. The performance and cold start characteristics of the groundbreaking drive unit have also undergone considerable improvement. "This represents a major step towards bringing the fuel cell drive up to full production maturity, a goal that we aim to achieve some time between 2012 and 2015," comments Dr. Thomas Weber, DaimlerChrysler AG Board Member for Research & Technology and Head of Development at the Mercedes Car Group. "By developing the fuel cell, we are creating a new basis for supplying energy in tomorrow's vehicles which will make a further lasting improvement to their environmental compatibility." In addition to the fuel cell technology, the Mercedes-Benz research vehicle also showcases a novel new operating concept with virtual displays and new-style seats, along with other pioneering technologies designed to enhance safety and passenger comfort.
Fuel cells use the chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen to generate electrical power in a process that produces no emissions. Professor Herbert Kohler, Director of Vehicle Body and Drive Research at DaimlerChrysler: "We have made some crucial advances to this trailblazing technology. Despite being around 40 per cent more compact than previously, the fuel cell in the F 600 HYGENIUS now runs more efficiently than ever and is notable for its good cold-start capabilities. This has been achieved thanks to the inclusion of innovations such as the redesigned fuel stacks, the electric turbocharger for supplying air and an all-new humidification and dehumidification system."
The F 600 HYGENIUS achieves a maximum power output of 85 kW/115 hp combined with a peak torque of 350 Newton metres. The fuel cell drive alone generates a constant power output of 60 kW/82 hp and a torque of 250 Newton metres.
With any surplus energy being stored in a powerful lithium-ion battery, the system acts in a similar fashion to a hybrid drive, selecting the best power source to use depending on the driving situation. When parking or manoeuvring, for instance, the electric motor draws its power from the battery alone, while both fuel cell and battery feed it with energy in unison when the vehicle is accelerating, producing the peak power output of 85 kW/115 hp.
The electric motor doubles as a generator that charges the battery during vehicle braking by recuperating drive energy.
The drive technology, the high-voltage battery and the hydrogen tank have all been housed in a space-saving manner beneath the occupant cell, while the high-torque electric motor - which is also a new development from Mercedes-Benz - has been integrated into the rear-axle carrier. The lithium-ion battery is featuring for the first time in a fuel cell vehicle from Mercedes-Benz and is a further key factor in the increase in power.
Mobile power station supplies energy both at home and away
As well as generating clean energy to drive the research vehicle, the fuel cell can also serve as a mobile power source: its 66 kW of electrical power would be quite sufficient to keep several detached houses supplied with power.
Passengers aboard the F 600 HYGENIUS also stand to benefit from its extraordinary energy reserves: the cup holders, which use electrical power from the fuel cell to keep drinks chilled or hot, are just one example of this. The fuel cell's energy also allows electrical devices to be operated anywhere at the standard voltage level - following onboard conversion - granting the occupants total independence from the mains network on family outings or business trips. All they have to do is connect the device to a power socket in the tailgate.
Compact-class car boasting luxury-class spaciousness
The four-door F 600 HYGENIUS also makes a mark for itself when it comes to comfort and versatility. Despite the body's compact length of just 4348 millimetres, the levels of space inside are impressive, even by luxury-class standards. The distance between the front and rear seats - a useful indicator of the freedom of movement and spaciousness - measures 945 millimetres, and can be extended by up to a further 400 millimetres thanks to the sliding design of the individual rear seats. This puts the research vehicle's comfort dimensions on a par with those found in exclusive luxury saloons.
Seating concept offering families the versatility they are looking for
A host of ingenious design solutions make the F 600 HYGENIUS an ideal family car. Take the child and family-friendly design of the seats, for example: the front passenger seat and the individual seats in the rear incorporate a new technology allowing the backrest to be used either way around. The backrests can be swung forwards and reversed in such a way that ISOFIX child seats can be locked into place on the seat cushions in a rearwards-facing position. The face-to-face seating arrangement boosts safety at the same time as making it easier to attend to young children en route, with the additional fore-aft and crossways adjustment of the rear seats allowing infants to be reached easily from the nearside rear seat.
Adjustable backrest cushioning encourages a relaxed and healthy posture
Mercedes-Benz has devised a revolutionary new seat for the driver featuring a two-piece backrest cushion whose height, width and tilt can be adjusted to the contours of the occupant's body by means of electric motors, and which offers a particularly high level of support in the midriff area. The backrest itself has a flexible mounting that allows it to follow the upper body movements and minimise the strain on the intervertebral discs, regardless of the seat position. If, for instance, the driver tilts the seat further back, the lower section of the backrest cushioning automatically pivots forwards to support the pelvic area.
Two-piece tailgate and picnic seating in luggage compartment
The tailgate of the F 600 HYGENIUS has a two-piece design offering maximum practicality. If space is at a premium, a push of a button opens the tailgate automatically, with the lower section folding inwards so that the tailgate swings through a much tighter arc as it opens. As this is happening, the rear bumper drops down, pulling out the floor plate of the luggage compartment at the same time to simplify loading.
When parked in a lay-by, a picnic area or at the beach, the movable luggage compartment floor can be converted into a cosy seating facility that's protected from the elements. Two extending fabric panels can be pulled out from underneath the floor plate and hooked into the roof liner overhead, allowing them to serve as temporary back supports for two people.
The front doors of the latest Mercedes research vehicle emulate the space-saving styling of the tailgate with a technology that is designed to make getting into and out of the vehicle as easy and convenient as possible when parked in tight spaces. An ingenious new mechanism swings the doors upwards at a slant, meaning that they take up less space to the side when opening than conventional car doors. Gas-filled struts are able to hold the door open in any position.
Video cameras for leaving the vehicle and changing lane safely
Cameras integrated into the housings of the exterior mirrors keep an eye on traffic to the side of and behind the F 600 HYGENIUS, even when it is parked. If another car or a bicycle is approaching from behind, the system will automatically disable the doors for a brief period to avoid the risk of a collision when they are opened. A warning signal sounds at the same time inside the F 600 accompanied by a red danger symbol that illuminates in the mirror glass.
Out on the road, the video system monitors the blind spot of both exterior mirrors and warns drivers about to change lane if a vehicle is approaching from behind.
Two-level operating concept with sophisticated new user recognition facility
In order to allow the vast multitude of functions to be operated quickly, intuitively and, most importantly, safely, the engineers at Mercedes have devise a concept based on the proven operating principle used in the new Mercedes-Benz S Class. This concept helps to minimise driver distraction, which in turn benefits driving safety.
As in the Mercedes flagship model, buttons in a control panel in the middle of the dashboard serve to operate the most commonly used systems, such as the radio, air conditioning, car phone and navigation. These buttons can be easily reached by both the driver and the front passenger. The push/turn control knob in the centre of the control panel can automatically detect whether it is being operated by the driver or the front passenger, enabling both to program their personal climate control settings.
This intelligent user recognition facility is based on the electrical signals transmitted in the skin: the instant the front passenger touches the push/turn control knob in the centre, a data circuit closes between the control knob and a sensor mat in the seat cushion, switching the display to the settings for the front passenger side. The COMAND screen in the centre of the dashboard can be swivelled to the side at the push of a button, to give the front passenger an even better view of it and prevent the driver from becoming distracted.
Advanced operating functions are the task of the COMAND controller, which was first developed for the new S-Class. It extends out of the armrest between the two front seats whenever required and allows straightforward navigation through the COMAND system's control menus.
Virtual displays for fast vision adjustment
The images on both high-resolution colour displays in the dashboard are diverted by means of two mirrors before being projected to appear at a point 1.40 metres in front of the driver. This leading-edge virtual display technology from Mercedes-Benz represents a key improvement to driver-fitness safety as it shortens the time required for drivers to switch their gaze from what's taking place on the road far ahead to the close-up instrument cluster display. Scientific studies have confirmed that, with this technology, the driver's eyes do not have to constantly adjust between close and long range so they do not tire as quickly.
High-power light-emitting diodes for all lighting functions
Headlamps with high-power LEDs enhance the driver's night-time vision and help to avoid accidents. The LEDs are distributed over three projector modules, which spread the light beam evenly over a wide area. The light module in the centre is activated as required, depending on the driving situation, and also assumes additional functions, such as main beam, the Active Light System and the cornering light. All of the various lighting features are performed simply by switching individual LEDs on and off electronically, thereby eliminating the need for moving components, such as those currently fitted for the Active Light System. Mercedes-Benz has also used LED technology for the brake lights and taillights. In emergency braking situations, flashing brake lights provide an early warning to drivers behind, reducing the risk of them ramming into the back of the car.
Preventive PRE-SAFE® system with knee protection plus new head restraints
The preventive occupant protection system PRE-SAFE®, which was first premiered in the Mercedes-Benz S-Class in 2002, will continue to be expanded by Mercedes engineers in future. Two additional anticipatory protective functions have been incorporated aboard the F 600 HYGENIUS: active knee protection to brace the front passenger plus head restraints with automatically extending side bolsters to hold the head still. These new features are triggered together with the other PRE-SAFE® measures prior to an impending accident, to prepare both occupants and vehicle for a collision. In the event of an impact, the seat belts and airbags are able to protect the occupants as effectively as possible; if an accident is averted at the last minute, the reversible PRE-SAFE® systems return to their inactive state.
Successful transfer from research into series production
Mercedes-Benz has unveiled eleven research vehicles in all since the start of the 1980s. This series of sensational vehicles - from Auto 2000 in 1981 right up to today's F 600 HYGENIUS -- documents the tremendous dedication and foresight with which the Stuttgart-based automotive manufacturer investigates core topics in the field of passenger car technology and pioneers new solutions for the future.
Many of the systems, which are now everyday series-production features, seemed futuristic when they were first revealed in one of the research vehicles many years earlier. DISTRONIC proximity control is just such a system. It made its first appearance in the F 100 in 1991 and made its series-production debut just seven years later in the S-Class. The Active Body Control system now fitted in today's CL-Class, S-Class and SL-Class models is another prime example of technology being transferred successfully from research to series-production vehicle, as are windowbags, the Active Light System, voice-operated control and the carbon-fibre bodyshell. The new F 600 HYGENIUS is set to perpetuate this trend as its speeds a drive technology for the future towards development for series production.
Eva Wiese, tel. +49 711 17-92311, email@example.com
Norbert Giesen, tel. +49 711 17-76422, firstname.lastname@example.org
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F 600 HYGENIUS:
The technical highlights of the Mercedes-Benz research vehicle
Styling is symbolic of driving pleasure and clean energy
Family-friendly concept brimming with new ideas
Interior design unites the past with the future
For the design team, the job of giving innovations a futuristic yet appealing form in the Mercedes research vehicles is far more than just an absorbing task. Rather, it is an exciting challenge that requires them to create a harmonious composition: an equilateral triangle of expressive forms, avant-garde vehicle concepts and unprecedented technology. The new F 600 HYGENIUS is no exception to this. Indeed, the designers' powers of imagination and creativity were called upon more than ever to fit the design language around the technical concept.
As with the technical design, the key concern during the styling process was the fuel cell. The designers were presented with their first ever opportunity to get to grips with this drive system of the future and develop ideas for accommodating it that were both stylish and practicable.
Designers from three continents were commissioned with this task: the Mercedes studios in Germany, Japan and the US drafted design proposals for the exterior, while the Como studio in Northern Italy was penned suggestions for the interior styling, the colour scheme and the materials. The result was a lively, multinational competition of design ideas. At the end of this stimulating phase, the project planners decided to give the nod to a design from the Japanese studio. The interior, including the colour scheme and materials, is entirely the work of the Mercedes designers in the studio in Como.
Bodywork design: muscle-bound lines and powerful proportions
The designers have drawn attention to the fact that this car's heart beats beneath the occupant cell with distinctive sculpting of the vehicle's flanks, whose appearance is moulded by large 20-inch wheels and flared wheel arches. The contouring of the wings evokes associations with the rippling muscles of a well-trained athlete, sending out a clear message that cars running on fuel cell technology are by no means short of fun at the wheel and dynamic performance. The extremely short body overhangs at the front and rear are a further styling feature that lends emphasis to the vehicle's powerful proportions.
The sense of power conveyed by the wheels and wings sweeps in a dynamic line into the surfaces of the doors, splitting them into two horizontal areas. Once again, the symbolism is plain to see: the somewhat minimalist, body-hugging panelling is deliberately designed to draw the onlooker's gaze to the muscular bulges below the occupant cell, the very spot where the green drive energy is generated and converted.
The power and vitality expressed by the wings and the lower sections of the doors forms a vivid contrast to the smooth surfaces above the waistline, whose taut, clean-cut lines inject a feeling of tranquillity into the overall appearance. The B pillars, which slope slightly backwards, and the slanted door joins are two eye-catching elements, which provide a further example of form being combined with function: as well as reinforcing the dynamic flow of the body's lines, they also make it easier to get in and out of the vehicle.
Expansive glass surfaces extending into the roof produce an airy, transparent feel, afford passengers panoramic views and make travelling in the fuel cell vehicle an even more memorable experience. The designers refer to this section of the body as the "greenhouse" and have kept the bonnet short, the waistline low and the windows large to give it extra emphasis. The unconventional proportions resulting from this concept create a fresh new visual balance between the vehicle's cabin (the "greenhouse") and the rest of its body.
The styling at the front end of the F 600 HYGENIUS likewise transmits a sense of power and vitality, which is underscored by the front apron with its voluminous air intakes for supplying cooling air to the drive system and by the unmistakable Mercedes radiator grille in louvred design. Both of these design elements help to give the body a wide-set feel and the research vehicle its self-assured poise. A further hallmark feature of the vehicle's nose is its pronounced arrowhead styling; a clear kink runs along the centre of the bonnet and then continues down the radiator grille to the centrepiece in the bumper and the front apron. This styling feature combines with the lines that rise towards the rear to generate an impression of dynamic forwards thrust on the one hand, whilst also giving the front end a lighter feel.
The lines flow harmoniously from the front apron and bumper back into the front wings, giving the impression that the front section forms an integral design unit. All of the constituent parts are exactly in tune with one another, both technically and stylistically, as if they had come from a single mould.
The projector modules of the headlamps add further focal points. The transparent lenses give an insight into a technology that lights the way forward into the future with high-power LEDs. The fine glass fins that subdivide the headlamp housings produce an unobtrusive yet powerful lighting effect.
Interior design: stylish symbiosis of technology and aesthetics
With its striking forms and interesting combination of materials, the interior design of the F 600 HYGENIUS also links the past with the future. In so doing, it reiterates the message transmitted by the rest of the research vehicle: that this is a car, which has been equipped with the technology of the future, but without diluting the fun factor or its suitability for use as a family car. Practicality and magnetic allure have therefore been fused together into the interior's design concept.
The interior design leaves room for both traditional materials, such as wood and leather, and for revolutionary new materials, including the gel-type luminous yellow plastic, which adds bold splashes of colour to the seat cushions and the footwells in the research vehicle. The soft material does more than just make a visual difference however, it also has a positive impact on occupant comfort, providing extra seat cushioning for example. The fine-mesh, open-pore fabric that adorns various trim components inside the car is also made from a brand new high-tech material.
Quite apart from forming a visual link between exterior and interior, glass is also an essential ingredient in the interior's homely feel. The light, which streams into the interior through the large side windows and the glass sections of the roof is an invaluable boost to interior styling and passenger comfort. Bathed in light, the inside of the research vehicle instantly takes on an inviting feel with a reinforced sense of cosy spaciousness.
This cheerful, bright interior ambience is due in no small part to the colour scheme. The light beige leather that covers the seat cushions, the armrest and the interior door trim blends perfectly with the warm brown tone of the handcrafted fine wood and with the grey dashboard trim.
The interior designers have dispensed with a centre console in the conventional sense of the word and have instead developed a dashboard whose top section appears to be suspended freely to give it an especially light, elegant air. The same impression results from the console between the two front seats, which is supported by a slender, sweeping pillar to accentuate the ample spaciousness. A comfortable armrest for both driver and front passenger, the console also conceals the electrically extending COMAND controller.
The restyled individual seats promise peerless comfort at first glance, and when travelling on long journeys they live up to all expectations. This is particularly true of the driver's seat with its two-piece, moving backrest designed for a healthy, fatigue-free posture. The seats' design is a refreshing combination of wood, leather and the luminous-yellow gel, with the front seats including every conceivable extra for adjusting the fore/aft position, height and seat cushion angle to suit personal preferences. The settings can be adjusted by the driver and front passenger using the trademark pictogram switches, with the slight difference that these switches are now concealed from sight whenever they are not needed under sliding elements in the inner door panels.
Both the front passenger seat and rear seats allow child seats to be attached simply and feature backrests that can be used either way around, taking child safety to new heights and opening up new possibilities for looking after children during the journey. The cup holders in the armrest between the front seats also come with a handy feature for young families that uses energy from the fuel cell drive to keep baby bottles warm, for example. The Mercedes designers have also developed a stylish pram as an accessory for the F 600 HYGENIUS whose design and materials match the research car.
The interior's extremely cosy feel forms a deliberate contrast with the ultramodern high-tech design of the cockpit, which is dominated by a large, tinted cover panel and the control panel in the centre. The panel covers the advanced virtual colour displays, which can be positioned individually by both the driver and the front passenger to bring them perfectly into view. The pushbuttons made from high-grade aluminium, which are recessed into a fine-wood console, enable the automatic transmission, air conditioning, navigation and phone systems to be operated quickly and simply.
Design and technology fuse together with exemplary style. Careful consideration has been given to each and every detail, never losing sight of the goal of making brand new technical innovations - such as the virtual displays, the centre control panel with automatic user recognition and the extending COMAND controller - as stimulating to use as they are to look at. The same applied to the more "normal" switches and buttons for operating the lights and the hazard warning lights, which, along with the start/stop button for the drive system, have been incorporated attractively yet ergonomically into the cockpit's large cover panel.
Further controls can be found on the steering wheel, allowing drivers to scroll through their personal phone book and dial stored numbers, for example, or call up data from the trip computer. Any information summoned in this way appears on a display panel in the centre of the speedometer, including of course the item of data that distinguishes the fuel cell vehicle from a conventionally powered car: the percentage display indicating the level of hydrogen remaining in the tank beneath the occupant cell.
The latest from the future
Drive: fuel cell drive made more efficient and practicable than ever
Body concept: compact-class car offering luxury-class comfort
Seats: new concept for excellent child safety and a healthy posture
Dashboard: virtual displays to reduce the strain on the eyes
"The future of the automobile" -- this Mercedes slogan takes concrete form in the F 600 HYGENIUS. The research vehicle with its advanced fuel cell drive gives a look forwards to the future of motoring as envisioned by Mercedes-Benz: a future that is completely emission-free and based on a new energy source that is not dependent in any way on the earth's resources of crude oil.
It has only been eleven years since the world's very first fuel cell-powered vehicle took to the roads - a very short time indeed in view of the immense research and development challenge associated with turning this pioneering drive system into automotive reality. Premiered in 1994, NECAR 1 (New Electric Car) was a small van, packed to the roof with some 800 kilograms of componentry that made up the fuel cell power plant. Top speed was 90 km/h and the operating range just 130 kilometres. Today, over 100 Mercedes fuel cell models are being put through their paces in day-to-day operation by customers around the world: "F-Cell" passenger cars built on the platform of the A-Class, small vans and urban buses. They have already covered some 1.5 million kilometres between them and continue to supply vital data on a daily basis that is channelled into the continued advancement of this technology.
This wealth of practical experience and the expertise of a team made up of some 150 scientists and automotive engineers fuelled the development of the new improved fuel cell drive unit in the F 600 HYGENIUS, which represents a major milestone en route to bringing this technology up to series-production standard.
The powerplant aboard the F 600 HYGENIUS, which generates electrical power, heat and pure water from the chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen (air), comprises four stacks made up of 400 individual fuel cells. Inside the cells, the chemical elements flow through the fine channels of the bipolar plates: hydrogen on the positively charged side (the anode) and air on the negatively charged side (the cathode). The bipolar plates are separated by a wafer-thin plastic film coated with a noble metal catalyst that allows only the positively charged hydrogen ions (protons) to migrate to the cathode where they react with the air to form water. The film is impermeable for the negatively charged electrons, which migrate to the cathode via an external connection instead: this causes the electric current to flow that is used to power the F 600 HYGENIUS.
Several key details of this emission-free process have been optimised by the experts at Mercedes. The bipolar plates are now made from metal plates measuring just 0.15 millimetres thick instead of the graphite material used previously. This improves conductivity and strength at the same time as reducing the amount of space required: as a result, the stacks have been made around 40 per cent smaller compared to the system in the A-Class "F-Cell".
With a view to reducing the drive system's size and weight, while also boosting its power and efficiency, Mercedes-Benz developed a new electric turbocharger to feed air to the fuel cell. This replaces the previous screw-type supercharger, which was some three times larger, seven times heavier and considerably noisier.
Intelligent water management enables starts at temperatures as low as -25°C
The only by-product resulting from the chemical reaction between hydrogen and air in the fuel cell is water. This water has an important function to fulfil as it keeps the plastic film between anode and cathode moist, which is essential to maintaining its proton conductivity. Previously, the water produced by the fuel cell was caught in the discharge air and injected in fluid form into the supply air - with the major drawback that the fuel cells froze at sub-zero temperatures.
The improved system used in the F 600 HYGENIUS is notable for its newly developed plastic film that requires far less moisture. This allows the engineers to fit a far simpler humidifying device comprising hollow-fibre bundles that are permeable to water vapour but impermeable to air. After being compressed in the turbocharger, the fresh air flows through the humidifier and absorbs just as much moisture as is needed for the proton exchange at the plastic films. The permanent airflow also helps to "dispose of" the water produced by the reaction and keep the cells free of liquid water. The discharge air is also directed through the hollow-fibre modules where some of the water vapour absorbed in the stack is dissipated to the compressed supply air.
Moist air instead of water, breathable dehumidifiers instead of condensers and pumps -- this intelligent principle for water management in the fuel cell represents a major breakthrough as far as cold-start capabilities are concerned. The newly devised gas-to-gas humidifier and the new improved plastic film mean there is no liquid water left in the stacks when the driver switches off the drive unit at the end of the journey. Consequently, there is no risk of the system freezing up in winter; far from it in fact, with the fuel cell drive springing to life even at arctic temperatures as low as - 25° Celsius.
Efficiency climbs to 60 per cent, fuel consumption drops to 2.9 litres
Quite apart from representing a further major step towards full production maturity, these innovations and others make a very healthy difference to the drive system's energy efficiency. Fitted in the F 600 HYGENIUS, the fuel cell system achieves an efficiency factor of around 60 per cent even at partial throttle, making it far more economical than conventional combustion engines, which only attain their maximum efficiency of 45 per cent at full throttle.
Expressed in terms of diesel fuel, the latest research vehicle from Mercedes consumes the equivalent of just 2.9 litres per 100 kilometres.
Booster effect for snappy acceleration
Such exemplary economy is also the result of an intelligent energy management system, which adapts the drive concept to the driving situation as it changes. Consequently, the F 600 HYGENIUS works in a similar way to a hybrid car:
During normal driving (at a constant speed), the electric motor is supplied with energy from the fuel cell directly. This puts a maximum of 66 kW/90 hp on tap, with any surplus energy being used to charge the high-voltage battery.
When accelerating from standstill or overtaking, the high-voltage battery cuts in to supply energy to the electric drive unit as well. This booster effect increases the maximum power available to 85 kW/115 hp.
When parking or manoeuvring, the battery acts as the sole source of energy with a peak output of 55 kW/75 hp.
During vehicle braking, the electric motor automatically switches function to act as a generator, which charges the battery. This intelligent system of recuperation allows drive energy to be recovered.
700-bar hydrogen reservoir extends range to 400 kilometres
The entire fuel cell system fits underneath the occupant cell of the F 600 HYGENIUS, including a newly developed tank, which can store up to four kilograms of hydrogen at a pressure of 700 bar. Both the reservoir capacity and the storage pressure have therefore been approximately doubled compared to the A Class "F Cell" vehicles, extending the maximum operating range to over 400 kilometres.
For the first time in a fuel cell vehicle, Mercedes-Benz is using a high-power lithium-ion battery to store electrical energy. This delivers an output of 30 kW in continuous operation and up to 55 kW at maximum throttle, more than double the power output of the former nickel-metal hydride batteries.
The electric motor fitted to the research vehicle's rear axle has been developed in house, drawing on all of the Stuttgart engineers' experience with the fuel cell drive. Unlike the asynchronous motors fitted in the past, the new unit is a permanently excited synchronous motor whose constant power output of 60 kW/82 hp delivers 250 Newton metres of pulling power, far more than a comparable combustion engine is capable of. The rear-mounted electric motor can even deliver brief power spurts of up to 85 kW/ 115 hp with torque peaking at 350 Newton metres.
Fuel cell paves the way for new forms of clean energy supply
The fuel cell points the ways forwards into a future with a guaranteed energy source. Hydrogen is the most commonly occurring of all chemical elements and is renewable, meaning that its manufacture has no implications for the environment. Fuel cells convert hydrogen into electrical energy extremely efficiently in a process that produces neither pollutants nor the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. To put it in a nutshell: hydrogen is the fuel which, in the opinion of the experts, holds the greatest potential for the future.
For Mercedes-Benz, hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles represent the culmination of a five-stage plan targeting mobility that is both free from dependency on crude oil and free from emissions. Consequently, the Stuttgart-based manufacturer is investing heavily in this technology and has undertaken to make it marketable some time between 2012 and 2015. The fuel cell will do more than just put an end to the reliance of motor vehicles on crude oil resources: the new F 600 HYGENIUS, for instance, also presents motorists with new possibilities for energy usage, which would previously have been inconceivable.
At the weekends -- when camping or picnicking -- the fuel cell can power the coffee percolator, refrigerator, electric grill, television or party lights.
During the working week, tradesmen are simply able to connect machines and tools up to the fuel cell vehicle's 110/220V power socket, while business executives can take their computer, printer and fax machine with them on business trips and work anywhere they need to.
Passengers even reap the benefit of the fuel cell's power en route: drinks placed in the cup holders between the front seats can be kept chilled or hot using energy from the powerplant.
In theory, the electrical output of the fuel cell in the F 600 HYGENIUS (66 kW) would be sufficient to supply power to several detached houses. This is an interesting concept, which merits further investigation.
The high tech of tomorrow fitted into a realistic compact car concept
The Stuttgart manufacturer takes the clean-running, hydrogen-fuelled drive seriously so it had its project planners devise a concept that is as practical as it is practicable: a sophisticated compact car designed with families in mind. By so doing, the engineers have delivered solid proof once again that the trendsetting fuel cell drive can be integrated into a vehicle of this size without having to compromise levels of spaciousness or passenger comfort and safety in any way.
On the contrary, in fact: by positioning the drive components and the energy storage devices under the floor, the majority of the body is dedicated to the occupant compartment. As a result, the level of space and comfort and the freedom of movement are exceptional by compact-class standards. Take the spacing between the driver's seat and the rear seat, for instance: the distance of 945 millimetres is a figure normally associated with larger luxury cars.
Added to this is the research car's unprecedented practicality and seating versatility. Not only can the individual seats in the rear be adjusted from side to side or removed completely, they also have a fore-aft adjustment range of 400 millimetres, producing limousine-like proportions in the rear and increasing the seat spacing to as much as 1345 millimetres.
New seating concept designed for taking better care of children
Children and their safety formed a further focal point during the design of the interior. Backrests that have been designed to swing forwards simply and support a rearwards-facing occupant present new possibilities for child safety and simplify the task of attending to younger children when travelling by car. With the front passenger seat backrest swung forwards, infants can be placed in a child seat that is then locked into place on the front passenger seat cushion by means of the ISOFIX anchorage system. This secure, rearwards-facing positioning gives the infant eye contact with an adult sitting in the right-hand or left-hand seat in the rear.
The rear seats likewise feature reversible backrests that make them a solid basis for locking child seats into place on their seat cushions.
Two-piece driver's seat backrest protects spine and intervertebral discs
Yet another seat innovation being showcased for the first time by Mercedes-Benz in the F 600 HYGENIUS is designed to improve driver comfort and posture on long journeys: the driver benefits from a two-piece backrest that is designed to relieve the strain on the spine and intervertebral discs. This is the task of movable back cushions with electric motors that enable precision adjustment to the contours of the driver's back. Not only can the cushions' shape be adapted, they can be repositioned horizontally by up to 60 mm and vertically by up to 80 millimetres. As a result, the backrest wraps around the entire upper body, lending much more effective support than conventional car seats, particularly in the midriff region.
Once it has been moulded to the occupant, the backrest follows any body movements like a fitted suit, relieving the strain on the discs in any seat position. If the driver leans further back, the lower section of the backrest automatically pivots forwards to keep the pelvic area more erect. The experts at Mercedes who have developed this revolutionary new seat technology together with medical experts have christened their latest contribution to driver comfort on long journeys "active seating".
The F 600 HYGENIUS is more than a safe, comfortable family car boasting tomorrow's drive technology, it is also intended as a versatile companion for leisure-time activities. For example, an AC power socket can be found in the tailgate, which supplies clean energy from the fuel cell whenever the vehicle is parked up.
And when it's time for a break in a lay-by or enjoying a picnic by a lake, a seating area for two that is protected from the elements can be set up in the rear of the vehicle. As soon as the tailgate lifts, the rear bumper drops down, automatically pulling out with it the luggage compartment floor which doubles as the seating area. The picnic area is completed by pulling two extending panels made from hard-wearing fabric out from under the load compartment floor and hooking them into the roof liner to form two supports to lean back against.
Two-piece tailgate with compact opening concept
The tailgate concept that has been devised by the F 600 developers is equally stylish and intelligent. It solves an everyday dilemma encountered by many motorists: opening a large tailgate in cramped spaces, such as a garage. In this situation, a press of the button on the research vehicle's electronic ignition and door key is enough to open the tailgate in three phases with the assistance of powerful electric motors:
Phase 1:the catch is released and the tailgate starts to open
Phase 2: at the halfway point, the bottom section of the tailgate folds inwards until it automatically locks into position
Phase 3: now folded so that it is only half the size, the tailgate swings fully open, requiring far less space to do so.
The new hinge mechanism for the front doors offers similar space-saving benefits: by swinging upwards at a slant when they are opened, the doors take up less space, allowing for easier access to and from the vehicle even when parked in tight parking spots. Two gas-filled struts hold the door open in any position, without the need for any further controls to be operated.
Video monitoring for leaving the vehicle safely
A video system has been added to make getting out of the vehicle safer for passengers: cameras integrated into the exterior mirror housings keep an eye on traffic to the side of and behind the F 600 HYGENIUS and can detect a car or a bicycle that is approaching from behind. If this is the case, a warning symbol flashes up in the mirror glass and the doors are briefly disabled to avoid the risk of a collision with the other road user passing by.
Out on the road, the video cameras monitor the blind spots behind the F 600 HYGENIUS which are not covered by the exterior mirrors and warn drivers who are about to change lane if a vehicle is approaching from behind.
PRE-SAFE® knee bolster protects front passenger prior to a collision
On the safety front, the F 600 HYGENIUS also gives a preview of how the multi-award-winning Mercedes occupant protection system PRE-SAFE® will evolve in years to come. This system swings into action prior to an impending accident to prepare both the car's occupants and the vehicle itself for the impact. In the new Mercedes-Benz S-Class, for instance, the front seat belts are pulled taut, the bolster cushions in the seats inflated and the seats themselves adjusted into a more favourable position so that the seat belts and airbags are able to protect the occupants as effectively as possible.
Future PRE-SAFE® concepts for readying the occupants even more effectively in advance of an imminent collision include knee protection that extends automatically to brace the front passenger and prevent him or her from sliding forwards underneath the seat belt on impact. The F 600 HYGENIUS has been equipped with just such a system.
When the risk of an accident is detected, the knee bolster extends out of the bottom of the dashboard on the front passenger side. As with the PRE-SAFE® belt tensioners, the knee bolster also has a reversible design, meaning that if the accident is averted it is retracted into the dashboard again.
The PRE-SAFE® head restraints fitted in the research vehicle work along the same principle: if a collision seems imminent, the side bolsters fold forwards automatically to hold the occupants' heads more securely.
Dashboard switch can discern driver from front passenger
Human Machine Interface, or HMI for short, is the technical name given to a development challenge, which Mercedes-Benz is tackling fervently. The aim is to adapt technology to humans by developing an operating concept that makes technology easy, safe and intuitive to use, and which maximises driver information whilst minimising driver distraction. The new S-Class from Mercedes-Benz has already taken the first few steps in this direction and the F 600 HYGENIUS now displays further ways of optimising operation.
The F 600 developers involved in this field work on the principle of "less is more". A small number of buttons and switches give the driver fingertip control over the functions that are used most frequently: transmission, automatic climate control, navigation system, audio system and telephone. These buttons are clustered together in a control panel in the centre of the dashboard where they can be reached just as easily by both the driver and the front passenger. As soon as a button has been pressed, the COMAND display switches over to the desired function.
Ergonomically positioned in the centre of this control panel is a push/turn control knob including a further special feature: it can automatically detect whether it is being touched by the driver or the front passenger, whereupon it activates the climate control for the left or right side of the vehicle as appropriate. Both the COMAND display and the temperature indicator in the push/turn control knob change instantly, enabling both occupants in the front to program their personal climate control settings.
This new form of user recognition is based on the electrical signals transmitted in the skin: the instant the front passenger touches the push/turn control knob in the centre, a data circuit closes between the control knob and a sensor mat in the seat cushion, switching the climate control to the settings for the front passenger side. The COMAND screen can also be swivelled to the side at the push of a button, to give the front passenger a better view of it and prevent the driver from becoming distracted.
All other operating functions and personal settings are the task of the COMAND controller, as fitted in the new S-Class. In the F 600 HYGENIUS, the controller slides out of the armrest between the two front seats whenever required and allows straightforward navigation through the COMAND system's control menus. As in the new Mercedes flagship model, user navigation is based on a simple, easy-to-grasp principle: sub-menu functions or lists are opened by pressing the controller; individual items within the list are selected by turning the controller or pushing it up or down and then activated by pushing it again. To close one of the lists, the user merely has to slide the controller sideways or press the "Return" button.
Virtual displays with mirror projection go easy on the eyes
The trailblazing technology deployed for the two colour displays in the dashboard sees the F 600 developers focus for the first time on an issue that affects a large number of motorists: eye accommodation. This is what happens when the eye has to frequently adjust between looking at close-up objects and objects in the distance, e.g. when constantly switching between the cockpit instrumentation and the traffic on the road further ahead. Investigations have shown that eye accommodation can lead to strain and weariness on longer journeys.
It was with this in mind that the research engineers decided to develop virtual displays that enhance driver-fitness safety and reduce driver strain. The images in the displays are diverted and enlarged by means of two mirrors before being projected to appear at a point 1.40 metres in front of the driver. To look at the information in the displays, there is therefore no need for the driver's eyes to readjust from distance viewing to close-up viewing. This places less strain on the eyes, representing a useful contribution to improving driving safety, as verified by scientific studies.
Buttons in the door panelling allow both driver and front passenger to pivot the displays in a vertical and a horizontal plane so that their position is adjusted to suit the seat settings and the occupant's stature.
High-power light-emitting diodes adapt to the driving situation
Headlamps with high-power LEDs enhance the driver's night-time vision and help to avoid accidents. The LEDs are distributed over three projector modules whose lenses spread the light beam evenly over a wide area. The light module in the centre is activated as required, depending on the driving situation, and also assumes additional functions, such as main beam, the Active Light System and the cornering light. All of the various lighting features are performed simply by switching individual LEDs on and off electronically, thereby eliminating the need for moving components, such as those currently fitted for the Active Light System.
For the brake lights and taillights, Mercedes-Benz has used 15 high-power LEDs whose light is dispersed over a wide area by means of optical lenses. When the driver depresses the brake pedal, the illuminated area enlarges six-fold compared to the tail light, making the brake lights even more conspicuous for following traffic. In addition to this, flashing LED brake lights are activated in emergency braking situations to provide an early warning to drivers behind and reduce the risk of them ramming into the back of the car.
Trusted production technology tailored to the new vehicle concept
The chassis of the F 600 HYGENIUS is built around tried-and-tested series-production components, which Mercedes-Benz has adapted to the new drive concept. This means a McPherson front suspension with steel springs, electrical power steering and internally ventilated, perforated brake discs, plus a multi-link independent rear suspension with steel springs and a custom-designed steel axle carrier for fitting the electric motor. The wheels of the Mercedes research vehicle are shod with 215/45 R 20 tyres which have been developed and manufactured especially for the F 600 HYGENIUS.