Merc’s Vision EQXX previews radical EV future

04 January 2022 - 15:48 By Motoring Reporter
The Mercedes-Benz EQXX is all-electric and made from sustainable materials.
The Mercedes-Benz EQXX is all-electric and made from sustainable materials.
Image: Newspress UK

Over the years, outlandish concepts produced by Mercedes-Benz have previewed technologies that eventually made it into series production models. Take the F100 project of 1991, for example, which featured rain-sensing wipers, blind-spot monitoring, voice control, xenon headlights and adaptive cruise control: equipment that is commonplace today.

So when the company releases a new one-off aimed as a foretaste of what is to come, it is easy to believe that there will be ripples beyond the initial hype, for the greater automotive industry, in years to come. This week it took the wraps off its Vision EQXX, which the company bills as its expression of what the electric vehicle of the future might resemble.

What about that name? EQ is the handle of the electric subsidiary of Mercedes-Benz. “The XX suffix augments the Mercedes-Benz brand with the X-factor of electric mobility that thinks beyond limitations, and an agile, X-divisional collaborative development approach,” said Markus Schäfer, chief technology officer responsible for development and procurement, as well as member of the board of management of Daimler AG and Mercedes-Benz AG.

Slicing through the air

The model certainly looks like it hails from two decades in the future, with its streamlined silhouette, said to be a distillation of the aerodynamic lessons Mercedes-Benz learned over decades. References were made to iconic trial cars like the W125 of 1937 and the C111 of 1969.

With an incredibly low drag coefficient of 0.17; the EQXX was designed to slip through the atmosphere as effortlessly as possible. According to Mercedes-Benz, a typical electric vehicle uses almost two-thirds of its battery capacity to power through air resistance. For reference, the Mercedes-Benz EQS has a drag coefficient of 0.20.

There are a number of subtle details aiding the model along in its quest for aerodynamic supremacy. Breathers in the front bumper, in addition to the optimised wheel covers, work in tandem to reduce drag. Pathways guide additional cooling over the bonnet, opening shutters necessary. This reduces air interference around the mirrors and lowers overall drag.

And pay close attention to the frontal styling. The manufacturer says the lighting elements and 2D star pattern on the front bumper sets a template for what the next generation of Mercedes-Benz models will look like.

Naturally, the type of materials used in its construction are of a sophisticated variety. That includes carbon (and glass) reinforced plastics, ultra-high strength martensitic steel, aluminium brake discs and plastic springs for the suspension. The vehicle weighs 1,750kg.

The EQXX has a retractable spoiler to aid aerodynamic efficiency.
The EQXX has a retractable spoiler to aid aerodynamic efficiency.
Image: Newspress UK

Frugal electric powertrain

Long-distance capability is what the manufacturer was aiming for with the EQXX. The complete output is around 150kW. It does not sound like much — and no reference was made to acceleration times. But of far greater interest is the estimated travelling range: 1,000km on a full charge.

See, Mercedes-Benz claims that the EQXX uses less than 10kWh to travel 100km. According to their mathematics, this is equivalent to around the 1l/100km figure in fuel consumption terms. Using real-world examples, the company said that 10kWh of energy could run a tumble dryer for three hours, power a 50-inch LED television for 100 hours or run the floodlights at a major stadium for about three minutes.

Powerful and compact battery

The Formula 1 experts at Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains (HPP) in the UK played a major role in the development of the drive system. The unit in the Vision EQXX consists of the electric motor, transmission and power electronics, based on the one in the upcoming Mercedes-AMG Project One hypercar.

A completely new battery pack for the, achieving an energy density of close to 400Wh/l. This benchmark figure is what made it possible to fit a battery pack with just under 100kWh of usable energy into the compact dimensions of the EQXX.

“In effect, we fitted the energy of the EQS into the vehicle dimensions of a compact car,” said Adam Allsopp, advanced technology director from HPP. “The battery has almost the same amount of energy but is half the size and 30% lighter.

“The battery management system and power electronics have been designed with an absolute focus on reducing losses. In achieving this efficiency milestone, we learnt a lot that will flow into future development programmes.”

The battery, which weighs 495kg, also features active cell balancing, which means drawing the energy evenly from the cells while the car is driving — in effect, giving it greater stamina.

Its sleek silhouette takes inspiration from streamlined Mercedes-Benz concepts of yesteryear.
Its sleek silhouette takes inspiration from streamlined Mercedes-Benz concepts of yesteryear.
Image: Newspress UK

Harnessing the sun

The electric system that powers many of the ancillaries in the EQXX draws additional energy from 117 solar cells on the roof.

It was developed in collaboration with the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE — Europe's largest solar energy research institute. The net result of reducing the energy drain on the high-voltage system is an increase in range.

On a single day and under ideal conditions, this can add up to 25km of range on long-distance journeys. The solar energy is stored in a lightweight lithium-iron-phosphate battery, which supplies a climate blower, the lights, the infotainment system and other ancillaries. Mercedes-Benz and its partners are working towards using solar power to charge the high-voltage system, too.

A massive screen spans the entire width of the dashboard.
A massive screen spans the entire width of the dashboard.
Image: Newspress UK

Vegan leather and recycled landfill trim

The interior features a large number of sustainable materials sourced from start-ups around the world. The door pulls are made from AMsilk’s Biosteel fibre, a high-strength, biotechnology-based, silk-like fabric.

Another sustainable material gracing the interior Mylo, a verified vegan leather alternative made from mycelium, which is the underground root-like structure of mushrooms. The animal-free leather alternative called Deserttex is a sustainable cactus-based biomaterial made from pulverised cactus fibres combined with a sustainable bio-based polyurethane matrix.

The leather alternative is said to have an exceptionally supple finish. Forthcoming versions have a higher cactus content, giving this material the potential to halve the ecological footprint associated with conventional artificial leathers. The carpets are made from 100% bamboo fibre.

Elsewhere, the EQXX makes extensive use of recycled waste materials, such as the plastic recycled bottles used in a shimmering textile to enhance the floor area and door trim. Higher up in the interior, the designers used Dinamica made from 38% recycled plastic to create a wraparound effect linking the upper edge of the one-piece screen with the doors and headliner. The interior also features UBQ material, a sustainable plastic substitute made from household and municipal landfill waste.

The interior is largely plant-based, with recycled plastic elements.
The interior is largely plant-based, with recycled plastic elements.
Image: Newspress UK

Extremely digitised

The 47.5-inch, one-piece interior display has more than 3,000 local dimming zones, meaning it consumes power only as and when needed in specific parts of the screen. With an 8K (7,680x660 pixels) resolution, the thin, lightweight mini-LED display acts as a portal connecting the driver and occupants with the car and the world outside.

The 3D navigation screen adapts to the type of content being shown. For instance, if you’re driving in an urban area, abstract visualisation of the surrounding buildings helps provide orientation amid densely packed streets. However, if you are travelling on the motorway or open road, the level of detail diminishes to provide a clearer overview of the journey. 

There is also a system to help you drive more efficiently. From energy flow to terrain, battery status and even the direction and intensity of the wind and sun, the efficiency assistant curates all the available information and suggests the most efficient driving style. 

To reduce battery consumption, the designers opted for fewer speakers in the cabin, but placed closer to occupants. Two broadband speakers installed in each headrest are paired with a bass exciter in each seat.


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