I came to Daimler’s headquarters in Stuttgart for a week of work experience, and was lucky enough on my second day there to be taken to their TecDay exhibition in Malmsheim on the “road to emission-free mobility”. This was a showcase for a series of journalists from all over the world running for a few days to show the range of new cars (both concept and road worthy) which were able to perform to the same standards as the petrol and diesel powered cars and trucks, except they all used environmentally friendly fuels and alternate methods of power.
The exhibition was laid out as a passage through the design changes and other improvements in the Mercedes-Benz cars: starting with the first ever model (made by Mercedes) then moving to the original Gullwing SL model which was the first model with direct fuel injection. It then moved to the car which was reputed for holding a significant number of speed records (e.g. 1000km at around 300km/h continuously).
Next was the first electronic passenger car which whilst somewhat inefficient was nonetheless able to transport 3 people, a groundbreaking achievement and new innovation for its time. Then came a cut away model of the new “Concept BlueZero” car. This showed the “engine” and power sources along with some videos of the workings and potential future of the car. There was an electronically powered Smart Brabus with a sound generator which was particularly cool as whilst the car was completely silent normally, with the generator it replicated the car engine noise. Next to this was the actual Concept BlueZero car which was driven around to show the journalists how it handled etc. The last car in the passage had been designed by the trainees at Daimler and aimed to show the new emission-free, futuristic driving but still with a link to the past car heritage. This was achieved by the use of the F1 nose and a joystick to replace the steering wheel (and of course an emission-free fuel cell engine) but it retained to original spoked wheels of the first ever cars.
The journalists then where able to test drive trucks, cars (smarts, Concept BlueZero as well as the original models), a Unimog and a Segway! During this period there was an interesting speech given on the ideas and concepts behind mobility and the necessity of mobility, and thus the need to find alternate sources of energy. This was particularly interesting (even though I could hardly see the slide show!).
After lunch there was more time to try the cars some more and I was lucky enough to get a few test drives as well. First I was driven round the course in the “Concept BlueZero” car. I was a little apprehensive about this as I personally prefer any car that can go at high speeds. However this is achieved nowadays by use of petrol and this is not environmentally friendly! Thus I was not sure how well the emission free car would live up to my need for speed! In fact it did perfectly well. Just the same as any other car of its specifications and horsepower, it handled well and had a nice bit of acceleration! I was somewhat disturbed by the lack of noise as I’m used to hearing engine sound, but this is overcome by the afore mentioned sound generator installed in the concept Brabus. The technology behind the car was just as impressive as the ride: The sky light/sun roof was a set of solar panels able to recharge the batteries at all times, and the driver didn’t need to hit the brake once, allowing the car to do the work. The cars interior was very comfortable (even if the colour was a slightly strange choice!) and the engine took up only a tiny amount of room. All in all I think that this car exceeded my expectations of an emission free car and points the way towards the future, even for a petrol head like me! Then I was taken for a ride in the Unimog. This was a strange experience from the smaller Concept BlueZero car, as the Unimog is such a large vehicle.
The best part of my day though, came when I was extremely lucky to be able to ride a Segway!!! Something I’ve never done but always wanted to do this was an amazing (if slightly unnerving) experience. It was really incredible to see how this vehicle worked as it doesn’t even look like something that could stand up but in fact I felt hugely safe and comfortable driving it even though it was my first time!
So overall I would say that this day was hugely successful. It showed every different type of the new low-emission and emission-free driving and possibilities there as well. The most fantastic thing for me was the fact that there was still an element of the past around these new futuristic cars. The older cars and designs and the current speeds that we can achieve will not be lost in a transition to emission free vehicles. The sight of the trainees’ car with its F1 nose and futuristic design particularly showed me that there is still a huge deal of consideration for the past and that this car heritage will not be lost. To put it simply, whilst I am still thoroughly a person who sees cars overall as something to go fast in, now I can say that this will still be the case, with the futuristic new designs and of course the most important thing: emission free vehicles.