The new Mercedes VISION EQXX concept has been hailed for range and efficiency that are set to define the electric era. Driven by the idea of zero impact and highly responsible use of green energy, Mercedes engineers worked intensively to take range and efficiency to a whole new level. The VISION EQXX is the result of a mission to break through technological barriers across the board and lift energy efficiency to new heights. It demonstrates the gains that are possible through rethinking the fundamentals from the ground up. This includes advances across all elements of its cutting-edge electric drivetrain as well as the use of lightweight engineering through advanced 3D printing processes, and the use of new sustainable materials (also 3D printed).
“The Mercedes-Benz VISION EQXX is how we imagine the future of electric cars. Just one-and-a-half years ago, we started this project leading to the most efficient Mercedes-Benz ever built – with an outstanding energy consumption of less than 10 kWh per 100 kilometers. It has a range of more than 1,000 kilometers on a single charge using a battery that would fit even into a compact vehicle. The VISION EQXX is an advanced car in many dimensions and even looks stunning and futuristic. With that, it underlines where our entire company is headed: We will build the world’s most desirable electric cars.” Ola Källenius, Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and Mercedes-Benz AG.
VISION EQXX bionic engineering
Inspired by natural forms and in partnership with innovative start-ups, engineers used advanced digital tools to lower weight and reduce waste by removing excess material assisted by 3D printing. As shown in the video below (go to minute 13:00), the Mercedes VISION EQXX’s entire rear subframe, which the company refers to as BIONEQXX, is built by consolidating over 70 parts into a single, bionically engineered, optimized aluminum cast.
To produce the BIONEQXX part, which is the largest aluminum cast ever made by Mercedes, the company used a giant 3D printed sand mold that was likely created using an internal voxeljet machine. Yet other parts, even smaller ones such as the suspension mount, were also cast from a 3D printed mold.
Currently the largest aluminum structural casting at Mercedes-Benz, BIONEQXX is the major structural component at the rear end of the VISION EQXX – the rear floor. It was developed in-house by Mercedes-Benz using entirely digital techniques and a software approach that is utterly unique within the automotive sector. The result is optimum functionality packaged within the compact dimensions of the available space. Furthermore, the team created this impressive and manufacturable one-part casting in just four months.
Taking their cues from organic forms, the development engineers sought to use material only where necessary for structural function, i.e. where loads are exerted. In line with the laws of nature, where there is no load there is no need for material.
The most important of the structural criteria is the need for very high stiffness and excellent crash performance. The beauty of the one-part BIONEQXX casting is the ability to pair this with functional integration within an extremely lightweight single component rather than an assembly of multiple parts joined together.
In addition to the BIONEQXX rear-floor casting, another BIONICAST component that features in the VISION EQXX is the damper domes which accommodate the suspension components at the front of the car. Like the BIONEQXX casting, they too contribute significantly to keeping weight to a minimum, saving around four kilograms compared with conventional pressed domes.
While that may be the most impressive, it is not the only part created with 3D printing. Other parts, such as a frame for the windscreen wiper motor were generatively weight-optimized and 3D printed directly in metal, getting the weight down from 2Kg to 200 grams. This process, which the company refers to as BIONICAST, is a Mercedes-Benz registered trademark applied to structural castings engineered according to the principles of nature. The bracket carrying the windscreen wipers of the VISION EQXX is designed using principles of bionic engineering.
BIONICAST is a Mercedes-Benz registered trademark applied to structural castings engineered according to the principles of nature. The bracket carrying the windscreen wipers and motor on the VISION EQXX was likewise designed using principles of bionic engineering. Here, too, the pioneering technique proved invaluable in keeping weight to a minimum while maximizing functionality within the tight packaging constraints.
This technology has already been transferred to Mercedes-Benz production models. For instance, the chassis components in the new EQS have been modified to reduce weight by increasing stiffness.
“The technology program behind the VISION EQXX will define and enable future Mercedes-Benz models and features,” says Markus Schäfer, Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and Mercedes‑Benz AG, Chief Technology Officer responsible for Development and Procurement. “As a halo car, the VISION EQXX firmly establishes Mercedes-Benz as the brand that pairs luxury with technology in the automotive world and beyond. And the way we developed it is as revolutionary as the vehicle itself. VISION EQXX has seen the best minds from our R&D centers work together with engineers from our Formula 1 and Formula E programs. They are proving that innovations from motorsport – where powertrains are already highly electrified – have immediate relevance for road car development. We are challenging current development processes with an innovative spirit and outside-the-box thinking. This truly is the way forward.”
The VISION EQXX is an inspirational, yet completely realistic way forward for electric vehicle technology. In addition to its ground-breaking energy efficiency, it offers meaningful answers to pressing issues. For instance, sustainable materials throughout cut the carbon footprint considerably. Its UI/UX features a radical new one-piece display that comes to life with responsive real-time graphics and spans the entire width of the vehicle. Other elements of the UI/UX help the car and driver work together as one and even use technology that mimics the workings of the human brain. And the software-led development process that delivered it revolutionizes the way electric cars are designed.
This car is one outcome of an ongoing program that is delivering a blueprint for the future of automotive engineering. Many of its features and developments are already being integrated into production, including the next generation of the MMA – the Mercedes-Benz Modular Architecture for compact and medium-sized cars.
This remarkable project went from white paper to a completed vehicle in just 18 months. It drew talent not only from Stuttgart but also from Formula 1 and a diverse array of start-ups, partners and institutions from around the world into a cross-functional, multi-disciplinary team. Sparring with one another, they applied the latest technologies and thinking to develop advanced, high-efficiency solutions with real-world potential for the near future.
Marking the launch of a new, super-purist design style, the VISION EQXX represents a new expression of efficiency in interior design. In a departure from the conventional design approach, the interior layout focuses on just a few modules and the beautiful simplicity of lightweight design. This is expressed through the absence of complex shapes and the integration of lightweight structures into the interior aesthetic in a wholly organic way, making traditional trim elements superfluous.
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 Mylo, 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.
The animal-free leather alternative called Deserttex is a sustainable cactus-based biomaterial made from pulverized cactus fibers combined with a sustainable bio-based polyurethane matrix. In this combination, the leather alternative has an exceptionally supple finish that is extremely soft to the touch. Forthcoming versions have a higher cactus content, giving this material the potential to halve the ecological footprint associated with conventional artificial leathers.
On the floor, the carpets in the VISION EQXX are made from 100% bamboo fiber. In addition to being fast-growing and renewable, this natural raw material offers an extremely luxurious look and feel. Mercedes-Benz chose these sustainable, innovative, high-performance materials because they, and others like them, have the potential to replace all sorts of petroleum- and animal-based products currently used in automotive applications. Together, they show a way forward for luxury design that conserves resources and is in balance with nature.
Elsewhere, the VISION EQXX makes extensive use of recycled waste materials, such as the recycled PET 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 PET to create a wrap-around effect linking the upper edge of the one-piece screen with the doors and headliner. The interior also features 3D printed parts made with UBQ material, a sustainable plastic substitute made from household and municipal landfill waste.
The openings in the BIONEQXX rear-floor casting were closed using patches made from UBQ material produced on a 3D printer. A total of 42 UBQ patches were designed using shape optimization to achieve extremely high stiffness and good sound-dampening qualities. Once inserted into the BIONEQXX casting using a special bonding process, the final unit is fully sealed against the ravages of water and dirt. The resulting part indicates that this innovative engineering approach has the potential to achieve weight savings of between 15 and 20% compared to a conventionally produced component. It marks a milestone in a lightweight design that meets the exacting Mercedes-Benz quality requirements.
Whereas most automobiles use petroleum-based plastics for component production, Mercedes-Benz used UBQ Materials’ bio-based thermoplastic to maximize the sustainability of the VISION EQXX. The new car features UBQ in the bionic structure of the vehicle’s body shell and in interior structures such as the headrests.
“The incorporation of sustainable materials into luxury, high-performance vehicles is just beginning,” said Albert Douer, chairman and co-CEO of UBQ Materials. “UBQ can be seamlessly incorporated as a drop-in solution with existing tools and manufacturing processes including compression molding or 3D printing.”
“Working with these innovative, sustainable materials to design the interior of the VISION EQXX was a hugely liberating and exhilarating experience,” says Gorden Wagener. “They open up completely new avenues of creativity, and the visual and tactile finishes are exquisite. The upscale feel of the interior through the use of ambient lighting as well as silver, rose-gold and gloss black accents is a highly progressive interpretation of modern luxury for the all-electric era.”