What started as a radical design study developed for this year's Los Angeles Design Challenge theme of "Highway Patrol Vehicle 2025" (see the sketches at the end of the gallery) prompted designers at the Mercedes-Benz Advanced Design Studio in Carlsbad, California, to develop a full-scale model of a civilian version.

          Related: See more 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show debuts

Characterized as "pure, rendered science fiction," Mercedes-Benz nevertheless intimates that perhaps this is an early look at the future of the unsinkable G-Class.

"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," according to Gorden Wagener, Director of Design at Mercedes-Benz Cars. "Modern and cool, it could also be a clue about a new beginning for the off-road design idiom of Mercedes-Benz."


The LEDs in the headlamps form the shape of the letter 'G.'

The front turn signals and running lights are mounted on top of the fenders, a trademark G-Class element.

The tailgate features a pull-out tool box.

The hydrogen-powered Ener-G-Force emits nothing but water and Mercedes claims an operating range of about 500 miles.

Each wheel is powered by its own electric motor.

A 360-degree topography scanner on the roof constantly scans the terrain and adjusts the suspension accordingly.

Energy is stored in the side skirts, hot-swappable for fresh battery packs.

The side skirts change color according to the operating and charge status of the energy packs.

Future or fantasy?

As crazy as it looks, there's really nothing too out-there about the Mercedes-Benz Ener-G-Force. No, there won't be anything like it available by the time your current lease expires, but many of the components and technologies are here today or on the way. More future than fantasy, we say.

 “This is a provision,” Wagener said on the show floor after the vehicle debuted. “On one hand, it’s visionary and far out there. But on the other hand, it’s also believable.”

So when will you be able to walk into a showroom and buy such a vehicle? “2020 – that’s my goal,” Wagener said. In broader terms he said it would be “Not tomorrow, but the day after tomorrow.”

If that tomorrow is ever to come, what would it be like to drive this machine?
In a word, “cool,” Wagener said. With a smile, he summed it up this way: “You could go wherever you like.”

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