Over long distances on the open road, one of the biggest obstacles to efficiency is staring us in the face – yet we can’t see it. The air may be fresh and inviting, but it wants to hold us in its grasp. Aerodynamic drag can have a big impact on range. On a regular long-distance drive, a typical electric vehicle dedicates almost two-thirds of its battery capacity to cutting its way through the air ahead, which is why the VISON EQXX has an ultra-sleek and slippery drag coefficient of 0.17.
However, the disciplines of aerodynamics and design often have opposing interests as Gorden Wagener, Chief Design Officer Daimler AG and Mercedes-Benz AG, explains: „The VISION EQXX is a vision of the future that embodies the desire for the next level of luxury from Mercedes. As designers, we always think in terms of technology and aesthetics. The aerodynamics of the VISION EQXX embody this fusion of tech and aesthetic for us as designers. In line with our philosophy of Sensual Purity, we created spectacular proportions that combine beauty with efficiency. The resulting body flow delivers revolutionary aerodynamics. The fact that the end result is as beautiful as it is bears testament to the skill of our design team working in close collaboration with the aerodynamics experts.”
The team at Mercedes-Benz has a long tradition of working closely together to achieve stunning design with class-leading aerodynamics, from the W 125 in 1937 and the 1938 540K Streamliner to the Concept C111 from the 1970s to the current EQS. Another prime example is the Concept IAA of 2015, which provided significant inspiration for the VISION EQXX. It was, for instance, the first Mercedes-Benz vehicle to make extensive use of active aerodynamic features to achieve notable improvements in drag coefficient paired with the distinctively elegant lines of Mercedes-Benz design.
A huge amount of work went into integrating the painstaking passive and active aerodynamic features into the external form of the VISION EQXX. The remarkable result was achieved on an impressively short timescale. The inter-disciplinary team used advanced digital modelling techniques to reach a compromise that reduces drag while retaining the sensual purity of the Mercedes-Benz design language and the practicalities of a road car.
“It usually takes around a year to finalise the form,” says head of aerodynamics at Mercedes-Benz Teddy Woll. “We had less than half of that for the VISION EQXX. Lean, agile processes and mature digital tools make collaborative work far easier, with faster decision-making and more nimble compromises. We also needed fewer models and less time in the wind tunnel.”
Despite the practical challenges and the compressed timescale, the success of the collaboration is clearly evident in the sophistication and poise of the exterior design. The surfaces of the VISION EQXX run smoothly from the front, developing powerful yet sensual shoulders above the rear wheel arches. This natural flow concludes with a cleanly defined, aerodynamically effective tear-off edge accentuated by a gloss-black end trim, punctuated by the rear light clusters.
Painted in a striking Mercedes-Benz alubeam silver appearance, the body of the VISION EQXX cradles the smooth dome of the greenhouse as it flows elegantly like a water droplet towards the rear. The retractable rear diffuser is a powerful example of the collaboration between design, aerodynamics and engineering – deploying only at higher speeds when the air becomes a considerably tougher opponent. When retracted, it fits seamlessly into the bodywork, preserving the balance, proportions and lightweight aesthetic of the rear end.
However, it presented a significant engineering challenge. Standing toe-to-toe with the laws of physics, the development engineers working on it had to ensure this seemingly simple mechanism ticked a number of boxes. As well as functioning in all conditions, it also had to weigh next-to-nothing and instantly retract in event of a rear-ender.
The VISION EQXX has a number of less visually obvious, but equally important, active and passive aerodynamic details, such as its small frontal area. It is actually less than that of today’s CLA or even the vehicles from smart. And how many would notice that the rear track is 50 millimetres less than at the front? Another is the air curtain/air breather at the front bumper. This ingenious layout pairs with the wheel covers to remove almost every last whisper of aerodynamic separation from the front wheels. And while all that is going on, air pathways even guide additional cooling air over the bonnet, opening the cooling shutters if necessary. This reduces the interference drag around the mirrors and lowers overall drag compared with a conventional outlet into the underbody.
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