As we mentioned earlier this month, the Mercedes-Benz Ener-G-Force concept was built as an entrant for this year's LA Design Challenge. The radical concept, visualizing what a rugged vehicle will look like more than a decade in the future, takes some of its styling cues from the Mercedes-Benz G-Class – a capable off-roader, despite its luxurious appointments.
Conceptually, the Ener-G-Force utilizes a "hydro-tech converter" to convert water into hydrogen for its fuel cell power. Emitting nothing but water vapor out of its exhaust pipes, the SUV has a range of about 500 miles and is nearly unstoppable thanks to its four wheel-hub electric motors that are electronically controlled to precisely handle any terrain. Adding to the Ener-G-Force's capabilities is its Terra-Scan system, highlighted by a 360 degree topography scanner that automatically adjusts its suspension on the roll.
But more impressive than anything else, and really upping its "wow" factor, is the fact that Mercedes-Benz invested the time, effort and resources to build this cool design study – a "concept car" in the traditional sense of the term – that has zero chance of seeing production (those huge plastic wheels don't even turn). Regardless, it's a lot of fun to look at.
The Los Angeles Design Challenge 2012 looks far ahead with a quest for the "Highway Patrol Vehicle 2025". Law enforcement will have to prepare for even more crowded roads with electronically monitored and guided traffic, a much larger population and changes in human behavior. People will still feel young and active even later in life. Outdoor activities will dominate leisure, as will the desire for freedom and adventure. The new times will also call for new police vehicles. They must be able to reach any place conceivable quickly and reliably – even far away from any pavement. And they must do so in an exceptionally environmentally friendly way using alternative energy sources. Enhanced green-car characteristics and off-road capabilities will be among the fundamental virtues of a police car in 2025.
As an environmentally friendly SUV, the Ener-G-Force, which Mercedes-Benz is presenting in Los Angeles as a design study, meets these requirements and would be fully capable of supporting police and emergency services in every corner of the world. Gorden Wagener, Director of Design at Mercedes-Benz Cars: "The Ener-G-Force is the vision of an off-roader that, while reflecting tomorrow's adventures, also invokes the genes of the Mercedes-Benz off-road icon, the G-Class. Modern and cool, it could also be a clue about a new beginning for the off-road design idiom of Mercedes-Benz".
The small glass areas make the police vehicle a safe cocoon for law enforcement officers who are faced with many dangers. Emergency lights integrated into the roof are impossible to ignore; the striking front leaves no doubt as to the commanding presence of the police, and the gigantic wheels guarantee the right-of-way even where no way exists.
Back from the future – clean concept for beyond tomorrow
Of course the concept of the Ener-G-Force for the Los Angeles Design Challenge is pure, rendered science fiction. However, the notion of designing tomorrow's off-roader intrigued the designers at the Mercedes-Benz Advanced Design Studio in Carlsbad, California to such an extent that they evolved the vision of a police version into a civilian version and even built a 1:1-scale model. Like the "Highway Patrol Vehicle 2025", the shape of the civilian Ener-G-Force is modeled after the G-Class, the off-road icon whose continuous history goes all the way back to the 1970s and that to this very day still tackles the future as a stylistically and technologically advanced SUV.
Like the police version, the model of the civilian Ener-G-Force is unmistakably inspired by the G-Class, which has long been considered an automotive icon.However, it presents a radical reinterpretation of this classic that looks far into the future. Important genes such as proportions and design elements were completely redesigned and updated in a clean concept for beyond tomorrow.Ener-G-Force Designer Hubert Lee: "Of course we wanted to take a clear step forward, but we also wanted the G's characteristic features". The Ener-G-Forcehas a similar profile, however with a high shoulder line and scaled-down glass areas.
While the clear design idiom of the G-Class has remained, all surfaces are designed to express intensity and tension. The meticulously executed details are also a clear indication that the Ener-G-Force is the product of modern times. Like the G-Class, the Ener-G-Force sports a front with an expressive radiator grille that incorporates the headlamps. The LEDs in the headlamps form the shape of the letter 'G', which gives the Ener-G-Force a bold, dominating appearance. The front turn signals and running lights are mounted on top of the fenders, a trademark G-Class element.
The distinctive roof and the 3-panel greenhouse also echo fundamental genes of the classic G-Class from Mercedes-Benz, but represent a clear step forward.This is also evident in the large wheels, whose 20-inch rims give the Ener-G-Force a powerful, towering stance. The Ener-G-Force also plays on the utility factor in an entirely new way. For instance, the distinctive feature in the rear is a slightly off-center pull-out compartment whose cover occupies the traditional location of the spare wheel cover of the classic G-Class. This pull-out tool box can hold a wide variety of equipment that are quickly within reach without having to open the entire tailgate.
Bursting with energy
The Ener-G-Force stores recycled water in tanks on the roof, and transfers it to the "hydro-tech converter," where natural and renewable resources are converted into hydrogen for operating the fuel cells. The storage units for the electricity generated in this process are housed easily accessible in the striking side skirts. The Ener-G-Force emits nothing but water, has an operating range of about 500 miles and as a result truly is a green car. Four wheel-hub motors, whose output for each individual wheel is adapted precisely to the respective terrain by high-performance electronics, provide the pulling power. A "Terra-Scan" 360-degree topography scanner on the roof permanently scans the surroundings and uses the results to adjust the spring and damping rates as well as other suspension parameters for maximum traction on the respective surface, regardless of whether it is on- or off-road.
The strikingly styled side skirts house either the energy storage units or hot-swappable battery packs. Changes in the color of the illumination of the side skirts indicate the operating and charge status of the energy packs. A roof rack and additional lamps are integrated into the roof. The entire design appears to have been carved from a single piece. The overall presentation of the Ener-G-Force is clean – stylistically and functionally.