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Tony O'Kane | Apr 30, 2009

When we reported on Mercedes-Benz’s retro-futuristic F-Cell Roadster late last month, we thought that was the last we’d hear of it.

After all, built by a group of apprentices trainees from Benz’s various design, development and manufacturing departments, the spindly and fragile F-Cell Roadster was, in essence, not much more than a training exercise.

So imagine our surprise when these images rolled into our inbox.

Mercedes-Benz F-Cell Roadster

Last weekend Mercedes-Benz took the F-Cell out on a symbolism-laden journey from Mannheim to Weisloch, retracing the route taken by Bertha Benz during the first ever long-distance car trip.

Bertha Benz was the wife of automotive pioneer Karl Benz, and in August 1888 she embarked on an expedition from Mannheim to visit her mother in Pforzheim almost 200km away. Along the way she had to stop frequently for petrol (or ‘ligroin’ as it was then known), which was only sold from chemists at the time.

Mercedes-Benz F-Cell Roadster

Fittingly, the finish line for the F-Cell’s first trip was at one of the chemists visited by Bertha Benz, which still stands today and boasts the distinction of the being the “world’s first filling station”. Being powered by hydrogen, the F-Cell didn’t exactly need gassing up, but Mercedes board member Dr. Thomas Weber said the destination was a symbolic one.

“At that time Bertha Benz was not yet able to purchase the petrol she needed at a filling station, and for emission-free mobility we are also dependent on the widespread distribution of fuels for the future – electric power and hydrogen,” Dr. Thomas said.

“But just as Bertha Benz refused to be discouraged by inconveniences in her day, we are just as determined to help ensure that these technologies achieve their breakthrough."

Driving a tiny two-seater prototype that runs on a widely unavailable fuel and makes an Ariel Atom look like the height of automotive luxury sure sounds like an inconvenience to us, but you've got to admire M-B's commitment to the alt-fuel cause.

Low-volume production of a fuel-cell-powered B-Class is scheduled to begin before the year is out, and the first batch of all-electric smart fortwos will enter trails in the e-mobility Berlin project by the end of 2009. As for the F-Cell Roadster, we think Mercedes-Benz has made its point.

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