While we were all just trying to get past our New Years’ hangovers and trying not to think too hard about what made that weird stain on the ottoman, Mercedes-Benz was out there showing off a brand-new electric concept vehicle, the VISION EQXX. That’s the last time I’m typing that name in all-caps, Mercedes PR people, so just deal with that. The concept is a striking-looking, slightly retro-inspired four-door sedan with a dramatic taillight setup. Let’s look at it.
The stated goal of the Vision EQXX is to be the “most efficient Mercedes-Benz ever built,” no small goal considering this is the company that brought the world slow, unkillable diesel station wagons that can be converted to run on used french-fry oil.
With that in mind, Benz engineers and designers developed an EV that can squeeze over six miles per kWh—that’s 10 kWh per 100 kilometres, and for comparison, a Tesla Model 3 uses about 15 kWh to go the same distance.
This efficiency would give the EQXX a range of over 620 miles from its battery, which is an experimental unit with an energy density of 400 Wh per litre and weighs only 1,091 pounds for a nearly 100 kWh battery—we can compare that again to a Tesla Model 3 battery, which is a 50 kWh unit and weighs 1,060 pounds.
Of course, this is a concept car, which means you really shouldn’t believe any of those numbers too much, because concepts aren’t exactly real. Still, there’s a lot of interesting tech being experimented with here, including a 900V power system and 117 solar cells on the roof, which Mercedes claims can add up to an extra 15 miles of range on long-distance journeys, though I suspect that’s only true if your journey is following the sun around on cloudless days, over treeless roads.
The aerodynamics of the car are really impressive: a drag coefficient of 0.17, which Mercedes’ press release takes pains to point out is better than a football (0.18 to 0.2) but also notes is worse than a penguin (0.05).
Also interesting to note is that efficiency must really have been the driving force here, since the specs say the car only makes about 200 horsepower. That’s a reasonable amount, but this thing does weigh 3,858 pounds, which means that it may be the first concept car in a long time that isn’t making insane claims about horsepower or speed. In fact, this one may be a little slow!
These specs would give it a power-to-weight ratio of about 19 pounds per horsepower, which is roughly on par with a 1999 Volkswagen New Beetle Turbo. That car was peppy and kinda fun, but not exactly fast.
I actually really like the look of it; it actually reminds me a lot of a very obscure and mostly failed French car called the Monica 560—look how close these proportions and general body shape are:
They’re not dead-on, of course, but I think that Monica feels a lot like an early ‘70s precursor to the EQXX.
The most striking angle of the EQXX may be the rear, which employs this novel arched taillamp design that outlines the reverse-rake of the rear of the car:
The lower, rear portion there also incorporates some active aero components, like a rear diffuser that deploys and retracts as needed.
The overall design is also a good reminder of something interesting about modern Mercedes-Benz: compared to almost every other major automaker, I think Mercedes relies the least on a corporate ‘look.’
I mean, look at this car, Mercedes’ current flagship concept car. If it weren’t badged, would you be able to immediately peg it as a Mercedes? I don’t think so.
This isn’t a bad thing at all; Mercedes does have a general sort of family look and feel, but I think they’re the most willing of all the major carmakers to break away from that. Where most carmakers would have demanded some way to shoehorn in their corporate grille into a concept, Benz was fine leaving their front end looking like this:
That’s not the face of any current Mercedes, but why hack on a big grille the car doesn’t need? I like this front end, and I’m glad that Mercedes just let it be what it needed to be, on its own.
Though, I will say that shine of light on the central chrome bar on the front of the car is really making it look like that tri-star badge is very off-centre and now I can’t quit seeing that. Is it? let me see here:
No, it’s about at the centre line, but boy does that shine make it look off!
Well, since I started counting pixels there, we may as well continue with that, as I tell you the insane pixel dimensions of the concept’s instrument cluster display: 7680×660 pixels, for a really, really wide 8K display.
Making wallpaper images for that thing in Photoshop is going to be such a pain in the ass. Mercedes seems to have gotten a little concept-car loopy when coming up with some of the UX elements for this massive display system, too:
A star-cloud avatar, reminiscent of our name-sake Mercedes Jelinek, is the ethereal guide. Shape-shifting in response to the driver’s needs and taking care of the passengers, she makes the journey into a luxury experience.
I’m not sure I follow how a “star-cloud avatar” is like the little girl Mercedes was named for, but okay, you have your fun, Mercedes.
The press release is also one of the very few I’ve encountered that mentions mushrooms so prominently:
From mushrooms to vegan silk, nature’s influence continues when we step inside the VISION EQXX. The lightweight luxury feel of the interior comes from extensive use of lightweight, sustainable materials and organic-inspired design detailing. The basic principle is maximum comfort and style with minimum weight – and absolutely no animal-derived products.
The interior features a large number of innovative materials sourced from start-ups around the world. For example, the door pulls are made from AMsilk’s Biosteel fiber. This high-strength, biotechnology-based and certified-vegan silk-like fabric comes from the inventor of biofabricated (nature-identical) fiber. Combining revolutionary science with true environmental integrity, its use here marks a first in the automotive sector.
Another sustainable material gracing the interior of the VISION EQXX is MyloTM, a verified vegan leather alternative made from mycelium, which is the underground rootlike structure of mushrooms. It is certified bio-based, which means it is made predominantly from renewable ingredients found in nature. This completely new material category created by the power of biotechnology is designed to be less harmful to the environment and is used for details of the seat cushions in the VISION EQXX.
So, if you always wanted a car with more mushroom-based inspirations, Mercedes seems to have you covered.
Mercedes-Benz has shown an interesting car here, mostly due to the pleasing, non-SUV/Crossover design and the focus of the car on efficiency and range over most other concerns. I can’t think of a recent EV concept that’s eschewed power/speed numbers so wilfully, and I actually think this is a good development.
Cars with 1000 HP that go from a dead stop to stupid fast in three seconds are fun, but for most people something comfortable and quick enough with a nice long range is closer to what what they’ll actually use, and I think that’s what Mercedes is trying for here.
I’m curious to see how much of this concept makes it into messy, stupid reality!