This coming Saturday marks 125 years of automotive history, as it was on 29 January 1886 that Carl Benz received the patent for the first motor car, heralding the birth of the automobile.

From 30 January 2011, as well as experiencing 125 years of automotive history, visitors to the Mercedes-Benz Museum can discover the answers to questions about the drive technologies of the future in the newly designed exhibition room Legend 6: ‘New start – The Road to Emission-free Mobility’. We did a first look of the new room.

“The motor car’s landmark anniversary is on everyone’s lips”, said Michael Bock, Head of Mercedes-Benz Classic at the presentation of the new exhibition room. “Not only are we kicking off the anniversary year by looking at the history of the automobile, but our new room ‘New start – The Road to Emission-free Mobility’ mainly looks ahead to the future”.

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“Day after day, our visitors ask us where we go from here. We have taken up the challenge and will be presenting different drive-system variants in the Mercedes-Benz Museum – from the optimised internal combustion engine through electric and hybrid drive systems to the fuel cell.” added Michael Bock.

On the chronological tour through the decades, Legend 6 will highlight the challenges we face now and in the future. Many visitors to the Museum want to know how driving pleasure and responsibility can be reconciled in a vehicle. Five automotive exhibits in the newly designed theme room showcase the drive-system variants of the future. One of the exhibits will be replaced regularly to reflect the latest developments at Mercedes-Benz.

The room is encircled by a timeline featuring over 60 monitors. This genealogy enables museum visitors to track drive-system developments throughout the 125‑year history of automotive engineering. As in each of the Legend rooms, a workbench invites visitors to interact and delve more deeply into the topic – be it in the form of a microcinema, a touch display or a hands-on exhibit.

The Mercedes-Benz Auto 2000 was first unveiled at the International Motor Show in Frankfurt in 1981. The vehicle was a response to a call from the German government for a car with the lowest possible fuel consumption – a glimpse of the future. The research vehicle offered three different drive concepts based on a single platform: the V8 petrol version, the V6 turbodiesel model shown here and the variant with gas-turbine drive each undercut the specified maximum fuel consumption limit of eleven litres per 100 kilometres – at the time an extremely low figure for a vehicle of this size.

In 1994, Mercedes-Benz presented the world’s first fuel-cell vehicle in the shape of the NECAR 1 (New Electric Car). The fuel cell converted hydrogen and oxygen into water, producing electrical energy which, in turn, powered an electric motor. The large hydrogen tanks and other energy-generation components weighed around 800 kilograms and filled the van’s entire cargo area. Although this invention was still a long way off anything approaching everyday practicality, it offered many advantages. Emission-free driving and a natural resource available in abundance were the main factors which convinced the Mercedes-Benz engineers. Subsequent vehicle generations succeeded in further miniaturising the fuel-cell technology.

In 2010, the B-Class F-CELL became the first series-production electric car with fuel cell to hit the market. At its heart is the new-generation fuel-cell drive system, which is compact, powerful and reliable as well as offering full everyday practicality. The fuel cell generates the traction current on board the vehicle, producing only pure water with no pollutant emissions. The result is a locally emission-free car with a range of 400 km, which can be fully refuelled within a matter of minutes. The B-Class F-CELL is therefore suitable for both urban and extra-urban driving.

Likewise launched in 2010, the Vito E-CELL was the first van with battery-electric drive to be produced in series. With a range of around 130 km and a top speed of 80 km/h, it is designed specifically for short-radius distribution in inner-city areas. Its emission-free drive system makes it ideal for areas with traffic bans in force because it generates no exhaust emissions and operates virtually silently. Thanks to the space-saving installation of the battery technology beneath the cargo area, there is nothing to restrict loading of the van.

Not yet on the road but already in the Museum: the third-generation SLK-Class – a model series which sets new safety standards for open-top sports cars. BlueEFFICIENCY measures such as direct injection and the ECO start/stop function make the car up to 30% more efficient. Mercedes-Benz has introduced BlueTEC to make diesel cleaner and implemented BlueEFFICIENCY measures to cut the average fuel consumption of all models. The BlueDIRECT engine generation is proof that it is possible to boost output yet still remain highly efficient. These and future optimisation measures show that there is still much scope for further development of the internal combustion engine.

Pictures: MB Passion