8 April 2020
8 April 2020
When the VISION AVTR was unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January, it looked like Mercedes-Benz had created its most futuristic concept car yet.
But if you look to the recent past, you'll discover that Mercedes-Benz has released some truly outlandish vehicles to represent what the brand could achieve in the future. While concept cars rarely go on to be released into the market, they're intended to give the world a preview of the technical innovations that could become mainstream in the next 10 or 20 years – and the best ones always get people talking.
Before we move into a decade full of even more boundary-pushing Mercedes-Benz inventions, let’s take a moment to appreciate the most incredible concept cars released by the brand over the last decade.
1. The Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 Cabriolet (2016)
First on the list is the Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 Cabriolet, which was revealed at Monterey Car Week in August 2017.
This all-electric open top cruiser stretches nearly 6 metres long, allowing its two passengers all the leg room they could need. The vehicle was designed to show that elegance and indulgence can coexist with sustainability. With its long, rounded hood and yacht-like rear, the Vision 6 has an undeniable Great Gatsby quality, but it runs on four electric motors, making it completely emission-free. Thanks to high-performance electric charging, it only has to be plugged-in for five minutes to provide an extra 100km of range. Combined, the motors can also get the vehicle from standstill to 100km/h in four seconds.
A voice-controlled concierge adds the ultimate comfort – it understands every request, from “play my favourite song” to “warm my seat”. Voice-controlled infotainment systems are now standard in all new Mercedes-Benz models with MBUX.
2. The Mercedes-Benz F 015 (2015)
The F 015 is considered much more than a concept car – after it was revealed at CES in January 2015, user interface designer Vera Schmidt called it “a research car, not a concept car.”
That’s because the futuristic vehicle showcases the technology that Mercedes-Benz hopes to make mainstream in the future, from complete automation to superior safety features.
The driver can summon the car from an app on their phone. If they (or an unwitting pedestrian) accidentally crosses in front of the car while it’s moving, it detects their presence and stops to let them pass, while projecting a zebra crossing onto the road from lasers hidden in the three-pointed star. A friendly female voice declares, “Please, go ahead” when it’s safe to walk.
“People use eye contact and can communicate with gestures,” says Matthias Flach, a predevelopment engineer who worked on the F 015. “We believe that an autonomous vehicle should also have this option, and lasers are one of the ways we could achieve that.”
Once inside the vehicle, the seats can swivel forward like they would in a standard car, or they can be turned to face each other so passengers can have a conversation like they’re on a train. To start the car, all the ‘driver’ has to do is press a button on the side panel.
3. The Mercedes-Benz Vision EQ Silver Arrow (2018)
The design behind this imposing concept car was inspired by the legendary 1937 W125 Silver Arrow, which broke records when it reached 432.7 km/h on an autobahn between Frankfurt and Darmstadt in 1938.
The Mercedes-Benz Vision EQ Silver Arrow, unveiled during Monterey Car Week in August 2018, is reminiscent of that vehicle with its streamlined shape and one-seat design, but it also demonstrates how the electric vehicle of the future could incorporate race-orientated features.
The cockpit is essentially a digital interface with its curved panoramic screen and touch screen on the steering wheel. Through these screens, you can turn on a virtual track assistant, which superimposes a racing line on the circuit ahead and allows the driver to race against a past or present Silver Arrow race car. A virtual race coach even shares tips during the drive.
As an electric vehicle, the Silver Arrow is virtually soundless, but the driver can also customise the car's drivetrain to sound like a V8 (without the carbon emissions). Its thin, rechargeable 80 kWh battery lives in the underbody and can take the Silver Arrow 400km before any charging is needed – technology Mercedes-Benzhas since delivered in its first electric car, the EQC 400.
4. The Mercedes-Benz Concept IAA (2015)
When this incredible concept car made its world premiere at the Frankfurt International Motor Show in 2015, car enthusiasts were awestruck when they realised it could shape-shift mid-drive like a real world Batmobile.
When driving at under 80 km/h in urban areas, the Concept IAA is in 'design mode' – meaning it looks like a stylish four-door S-Class coupé. But once it reaches highway speeds over 80km/h, the Concept IAA enters ‘aerodynamic mode’. Panels emerge from the front, rear and sides, lengthening the vehicle and improving air flow around the wheel arches and underbody. The wheel rims even flatten to propel the car along at faster speeds and boost its energy efficiency.
Once this feature is triggered, the car can reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 3g per kilometre, while its electric battery can run for an extra 4km. This is just one of the ways Mercedes-Benz has experimented with reducing carbon emissions in its vehicles.
5. The Mercedes-Benz BIOME (2010)
Much like this year’s VISION AVTR, the BIOME is inspired by nature and made from biodegradable materials, though in this case, the vehicle itself grows from the earth.
As part of the Los Angeles Design Challenge in 2010, designers from the Mercedes-Benz Advanced Design Studio in Sindelfingen proposed that the BIOME could be made from an ultra-light proprietary material called BioFibre, which grows when DNA from the Mercedes-Benz star is combined with a seed capsule. It’s considerably lighter than metal but stronger than steel, so the car as a whole only weighs 394kg.
Once on the road, the vehicle would run on a substance called BioNectar4534, which emits oxygen rather than carbon. And at the end of the vehicle’s life, the car can be composted or recycled into building materials.
It might be the most outlandish idea of them all, but the BIOME certainly shows us how innovative environmentally friendly car design could become.
By Emily Tatti