Frankfurt Motor Show 2011: Mercedes-Benz F125


Sometimes things are just so clever it’s difficult to fully understand them at first glance. So it is with the F125 Frankfurt Motor Show concept car from Mercedes, which looks at least a decade into the future.

Superficially this is a big old limo with unfeasible gull-wing doors and a questionable plutocratic interior. “There are no clues as to the replacement S-class,” said one tight-lipped PR. Delve deeper though and there’s technical gold under the skin as befits the Stuttgart brains who built it.

Powered by a hepped-up fuel cell of the type that Mercedes is currently trialling with the B-class F-cell models, the F125 uses four separate drive motors on each wheel as well as components from the SLS AMG E-Cell supercar.

There’s 16.5lb of low-pressure gaseous hydrogen stored on board, not in conventional 10,000psi high-pressure tanks, but within the car’s composite structure at 435psi. This frees up cabin space and allows interesting design opportunities.

The battery is a 10kWh lithium-sulphur unit mounted behind the rear seats. This technology is at the experimental stage (as is the proposed smart-phone controlled inductive charging), but the unit gives a 31-mile electric-only range and, when combined with the hydrogen stored, the F125 has a potential range of more than 620 miles.

Power output is rated at 231bhp continuously, with a peak of 313bhp and that gives a top speed of 137mph, with 0-62mph acceleration in 4.9sec. It burns hydrogen at an energy equivalent rate of 104mpg, but assuming the hydrogen came from renewable resources (which is a big question), the entire driving process would be emissions free.

Renewable hydrogen is the unicorn of fuel-cell research, but storing the stuff has been equally difficult. This low-pressure hydrogen structure raises lots of safety questions, but it is a bright way of storing the gas while still retaining range.

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