Mercedes unveiled its Vision EQXX at the CES 2022 via a digital presentation because of Covid restrictions. You can watch the entire presentation in the video below. Since there was no actual car at an actual show, all we know of the car needs to be gleaned from that video and from official statements about it from the company. One of those statements is from Mercedes boss Ola Källenius, who says “efficiency is the new currency.”
Indeed, the EQXX is all about efficiency. Its shape is determined by the need to make it move through the air as smoothly as possible. In the days of cheap gasoline, efficiency was an afterthought. So what if a car had an overall efficiency of only 20%? Gas was plentiful. So what if you had to fill up more often? Despite all the bad things associated with gasoline — poor health, shorter life spans, a warming planet — there is no getting around that a gallon of gasoline contains a truly amazing amount of energy.
The battery of a typical electric vehicle today has about the same energy as three gallons of gasoline. That means if a Honda Civic can travel 300 miles on 10 gallons of gas, an equivalent electric car will need to be 333% more efficient in order to travel the same distance. Mercedes engineers and designers have put their thinking caps on to give the EQXX an aerodynamic efficiency of Cd 0.175. The Tesla Model 3 — one of the most aerodynamic production cars in history — has a Cd of 0.23.
The battery for the EQXX is a marvel of engineering. It is roughly half the size of the battery used in the new EQS electric sedan from Mercedes yet has about the same power. “In effect, we fitted the energy of the EQS into the vehicle dimensions of a compact car,” says Adam Allsopp, the director of advanced technology at High Performance Powertrains, the division of Mercedes that creates the hybrid drivetrains for the company’s Formula One cars. “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 learned a lot that will flow into future development programs.”
That’s really the point. The EQXX is not really intended for production. It is a laboratory, a rolling test bed designed to show how Mercedes can squeeze more miles per battery charge out of its future electric cars. It also is an example of how digital design tools can accelerate the development of vehicles in the future. The EQXX went from an idea to a full blown driveable car in just 18 months — a stunningly short time in the automobile business where lead times of 3 to 5 years are common.
The battery itself operates on 900 volts and has an energy density of nearly 400 Wh/L according to TechCrunch, thanks to what the company calls “significant progress” in the chemistry of the anodes, which have higher silicon content and an advanced composition that allows them to store considerably more energy than conventional anodes. But there’s more to the story.
Advanced power electronics and a lighter, more compact electric motor all combine to make a powertrain that Mercedes says is 95% efficient. A typical electric car today is about 75 to 80% efficient, which is a far better than the 35% efficiency of the typical internal combustion engine but quite a bit less than what Mercedes has been able to achieve. The EQXX will be no dragster, however. As configured, its has a single motor powering the rear wheels that puts out a modest 200 horsepower (150 kW).
The car itself is quite small. Car and Driver reports, “There is no word on overall length but confirmation of a 110.0-inch wheelbase suggests [the EQXX] will be a little longer than the A Class sedan, which has 107.4 inches between its axles and a shorter rear overhang. We don’t have a width figure, but the head-on view makes it clear that the EQXX is also much narrower than an average Benz, and also that the rear track is two inches narrower than the front.”
The goal is to make an electric car that uses less than 10 kWh of energy for every 100 kilometers of driving — equivalent to an average fuel economy of 202 miles per gallon. Some readers will remember the visionary Volkswagen 1L, a car that would use less than one liter of fuel to travel 100 kilometers at a time before the diesel cheating scandal hit when Volkswagen was searching for ways to make its conventional cars more efficient.
Not surprisingly, there are design similarities between the 1L and the EQXX, as the inventory of available wind cheating shapes is quite limited. The company says the EQXX will have a range of at least 1000 kilometers (621 miles) and intends on proving that claim in real world driving in the next few months.
The interior of the EQXX abounds in creative ideas and digital geewizardry. A full-width touchscreen with advanced voice controls will do everything but cook breakfast. Sustainable materials made from bamboo and mushroom caps will cover the seats and other interior surfaces. The exterior of the car is made from what is described as low-CO2 steel made from scrap while the doors are made from carbon fiber and glass-reinforced plastics.
While that is all very exciting, what may appeal to EV fans more are the solar panels integrated into the roof that can provide up to 15 extra miles of driving on a sunny day. The panels don’t feed the main battery directly but rather power accessories such as the lights, climate control system, and infotainment functions so the energy in the main battery can be devoted solely to moving the car forward.
Don’t expect to see an EQXX at your local Mercedes dealer anytime soon — or ever, actually. It is an engineering exercise, what the company calls a “technology blueprint for series production.” It’s about learning what’s possible and stretching the minds of its most creative people to imagine what the future of private passenger cars might be.
Is there a business case for the EQXX? Probably not. It is small by today’s standards. It may have rear doors, but with its sloping roof line, getting in and out of the rear seat would be difficult for most people. What the EQXX means more than anything else is that Mercedes is taking the EV revolution seriously. That’s good news for all of us who want to see it succeed.
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