Story: Will Sabel Courtney
IT CAME FROM THE POD
Ever since Henry Ford built the first automotive assembly line back in 1910, the majority of cars have been put together the same way: piece by piece by a small army of factory workers as the vehicle advances along a giant conveyor belt. The Biome, however, doesn’t bother with all that assembly-line nonsense. This car builds itself—or, rather, grows itself.
The soon-to-be owner’s specs and options are genetically engineered into the DNA sequences contained in two Mercedes-Benz logos, each of which is then inserted into a large “seed pod.” Within 24 hours, the two pods grow together into a single car. Four more pods are used to grow the wheels, which contain the car’s brakes, propulsion system and suspension. The end result carries four people: The driver sits in the center up front, two passengers sit beside and to the rear of him, and a third passenger sits in the rear facing backward. The whole car ends up weighing 875.5 pounds—2,697 less than Mercedes’s SLS AMG.
The whole process works due to a miraculous material called “BioFibre,” an organic-based substance stronger than steel but lighter than plastic. The BioFibre is versatile enough to form every part of the Biome—it can even become transparent to function as the car’s windows. The vehicle’s body also uses the sun’s rays to generate power, not by turning the power into electricity, as with solar panels, but by converting it into a liquid called “BioNectar4534.” Much as plants convert sunlight into chemical energy for later use, the Biome stores this BioNectar throughout its body until the wheels are ready to drink it. Mercedes-Benz also offers devices that connect to trees and convert their excess sap into BioNectar. The only exhaust: pure oxygen. Take that, hippies!
ALWAYS A CATCH
If the Biome’s alien-like assembly or plant- inspired fuel source sound like science fiction to you, there’s a reason for that: It is. Cars that grow themselves out of genetically engineered fibers and run on liquid nectar remain as imaginary as Tony Stark’s superhuman threads. The concept was designed and built for the 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show Design Challenge, which invites carmakers to create forward-thinking automotive designs that aren’t restricted by reality.
However, if you dig the Biome’s futuristic lines, you might be able to pick up something that looks like it at your Mercedes- Benz dealership around mid decade, when the company may build an ecofriendly hybrid supercar with styling inspired by the Biome. “We were conscious during its development to ensure it wasn’t too limited or edgy,” said Mercedes-Benz designer Hubert Lee, one of the main forces behind the Biome. “It had to be doable without any significant changes.” As long as there are no seeds in our green, we’re all right with that.