MONTVALE, N.J. - A team of apprentices at Mercedes-Benz have combined 19th century design with 21st century propulsion to create the F-Cell Roadster, a hydrogen fuel-cell concept that isn't so much a car as a rolling timeline of automotive history.
Mercedes says the F-Cell "uniquely combines state-of-the-art technologies with the history of vehicle construction" with a fuel cell powering a reinvention of the iconic 1886 Benz Motorwagen, the first car ever built. Examples of the "everything new is old again" theme include carbon-fiber seats with hand-stitched leather covers, a tiller-style joystick and a vintage-looking flat front that also channels Mercedes' Formula One heritage.
The retro-futuristic design is enough to make us forget that fuel cell technology is about as relevant as Keith Olbermann in an Obama administration.
The F-Cell is as much a testament to German engineering as it is to the German dual education system in which students attending vocational school work as apprentices. They rarely hear you're fired - most apprenticeships lead to jobs. In the case of the F-Cell, the apprentices came from such diverse fields as automotive mechatronics, model building, electronics, coating technology, manufacturing mechanics, product design and interior appointments. Creating the F-Cell concept gave 150 apprentices experience with alt-fuel tech.
"This project impressively demonstrates that the topic of sustainable mobility has become an integral part of our vocational training," Günther Fleig, Daimler's labor relations manager, said in a statement. "I am delighted to see how much initiative and creativity the young people have put into this project."
While it's true the Roadster's 1.6 horsepower output and top speed of 15 mph is only impressive by 1886 standards, we bet the F-Cell feels dangerously fast with those big wheels and the hydrogen tank in the back.