Sindelfingen, Germany – A fuel cell vehicle built by apprentices in a Mercedes-Benz plant in Germany has covered a section of the historic route of the first long-distance automobile journey in 1888.

The route marks a trip taken by Bertha Benz, wife of company founder Carl Benz, in the Patent Motor Wagon he designed. The team drove their F-CELL Roadster from Mannheim to a chemist’s shop in Wiesloch, where Benz stopped to refuel her car, which still exists, and which its owners now call the “world’s first filling station.”

“This trip by the F-CELL Roadster is symbolic of the current change taking place in automobile engineering,” said Dr. Thomas Weber, responsible for corporate research and development. “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. 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.”

Before the end of 2009, the company will commence small-series production of the B-Class with a fuel cell drive system, along with Smart Fortwo electric drive models that will enter service in the “e-mobility Berlin” project early next year.

More than 150 apprentices and students worked on the design, development, assembly and completion of the F-CELL Roadster. The project’s aim was to integrate alternative drive systems into the training content in a practical manner. With an output of 1.2 kW, the vehicle is capable of a top speed of 25 km/h, with an operating range of up to 350 km.

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