Mercedes-Benz is the latest automaker to win the title of longest-range electric vehicle with the unveiling of the Vision EQXX, a solar-powered concept car capable of exceeding 1,000 kilometers (648 miles) on a single charge.
That’s enough to get the Vision EQXX from New York to Cincinnati, or Berlin to Paris, or Beijing to Nanjing, on a single charge. And that’s impressive compared to other long-range electric vehicles currently on the road today, like the Lucid Air (520 miles) and the Tesla Model S Long Range Plus (402 miles). But unlike these vehicles, the Vision EQXX is just a concept with no concrete production plans. (For now.)
Mercedes, who had been teasing the vehicle for several weeks, finally unveiled it (virtually) at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. (Like most large companies, Mercedes has canceled plans to attend CES in person amid an increase in COVID-19 cases.)
With its sporty intentions and sleek, futuristic design, the Vision EQXX will likely serve as the basis for a production car that could end up competing with other luxury electric vehicles like the Porsche Taycan, the Audi E-tron GT and the Tesla Roadster.
Unlike other Mercedes concepts, the Vision EQXX is meant to be more grounded in reality. The company claims to have based its range estimates on a simulation of actual traffic conditions, fueling claims that it will consume power at a rate of 10 kWh per 100 kilometers, or more than 6 miles per kWh. Translated into terms of fossil fuel consumption, that’s about the “golden number” of 235 miles per gallon in the United States, or 1 liter of gasoline per 100 kilometers.
To put that in perspective, Mercedes notes that 10 kWh is the equivalent of using a clothes dryer or air conditioner for three hours or watching 50 hours of TV on a 50-inch LED screen.
But despite these simulations and estimates, Mercedes says the Vision EQXX’s upper lineup is “completely realistic” and that many of its technological advancements will be incorporated into future production vehicles through Mercedes-Benz modular architecture.
Mercedes claims to have achieved this fuel efficiency not by ramming an oversized battery under the vehicle floor, but by “pulling[ing] at all levels in terms of drivetrain efficiency, energy density, aerodynamics and lightweight design … The result is a masterpiece of efficiency.
Lightness is certainly one way of describing a vehicle with a gross weight of 1,750 kg (3,858 lb), which places it more in the compact SUV category than a sports car. Most of that weight is likely to be found in the battery, which holds almost 100 kWh of power but also registers 50% less volume and 30% less mass than the Mercedes-Benz EQS sedan. The slippery teardrop shape is intended to reduce aerodynamic drag, with Mercedes claiming a “benchmark” coefficient of 0.17 based on a 140 km / h wind tunnel test – an improvement over the drag coefficient record 0.20 EQS.
Of course, a range estimate is just that: an estimate. It will be up to the Environmental Protection Agency in the United States, as well as the Harmonized Test Procedure for Light Vehicles Worldwide (WLTP) in Europe, to independently certify any range of electric vehicles. Most electric vehicles on the market today have a range of between 200 and 300 miles, while some earlier models have less. The latest generation of electric vehicles has ranges of 250 to 300 miles.
Of course, the EV range is very subjective. Even the EPA scoring system is only intended to present a snapshot under the specific conditions of the agency’s testing process. It generally excludes factors such as steep climbs and the effects of cold weather, which can drain a vehicle’s battery much faster than when driving on flat surfaces or in hot weather.
The Vision EQXX will be helped by the 117 solar cells installed in the roof of the vehicle. Developed in collaboration with the largest solar energy research institute in Europe, the solar roof is intended to compensate for the energy consumption of the high voltage system while increasing the range. According to Mercedes, solar cells can add up to 25 km of range on long-distance trips under ideal conditions in a single day.
For now, we’ll have to take their word for it. Using solar cells to power an electric vehicle is no easy task. There is a huge disparity between how much solar power the best cells can pick up and what is needed to move a two-ton vehicle at high speed.
But Mercedes is not the only company trying to achieve this. Aptera – a California startup that crashed in the aftermath of the Great Recession – was recently resurrected. German startup Sono Motors is also working on a solar-powered electric car. And Dutch startup Lightyear recently found a manufacturing partner to build its solar-powered electric car, the Lightyear One.
The Vision EQXX’s interior features a massive 47.5-inch screen that spans the full width of the vehicle, a nod to the company’s new Hyperscreen infotainment display. But unlike the Hyperscreen, which is an amalgamation of three separate screens placed in a solid 56-inch piece of glass, the Vision EQXX’s screen is a one-piece display that will also feature 8K resolution and cutting-edge graphics.
Mercedes says it is working with a company called NAVIS Automotive Systems to develop “the world’s first real-time 3D navigation system” on a screen of this size. This new navigation system will allow “transparent zooming and scrolling functions from the satellite view up to a height of 10 meters in the representation of the city in 3D,” the company said.
Like most of its competitors, Mercedes is rushing towards a fully electric future. The company said it would spend 40 billion euros ($ 47 billion) electrifying its lineup by 2030, including electric versions of Mercedes-Benz G-class wagons and high-performance vehicles. AMG.
The announcements come as most major countries work to restrict the sale of internal combustion engine vehicles in the decades to come. The European Union, China and California have all said they will ban the sale of internal combustion engine vehicles by 2035.