This week, we got a special invitation to Carlsbad, California, to peek behind the curtain of Mercedes-Benz’s International Design Center (IDC). It was here that the automaker’s creative team shared details of its fifth design strategy, which includes NFTs, augmented reality, and some exciting new motor technology. The true star of the show, however, was the debut of Mercedes’s latest all-electric concept, the Vision One Eleven – a hyper-futuristic nod to an experimental legend that debuted over 50 years ago.
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California dreamin’… in orange
While we can’t talk about the main reason for our trip to California just yet, Mercedes-Benz and its design team had a jam-packed schedule for us leading up to an exciting world premiere of a new Vision concept that features several innovations we could eventually see in production EVs.
This is a similar design approach to last year’s debut of the Vision EQXX EV, of which several new technologies have since been integrated into EV designs donning the star badge, including the automaker’s upcoming MMA platform.
Before the official debut of the new Vision One Eleven, we were swiftly but politely herded like cattle through the sectioned-off IDC, station to station, where we learned about many of the exciting designs the automaker has going on.
Admittedly, some of these stations involved combustion vehicles – or, at the very least, hybrids – so we’re going to skip that recap. I do however want to point out two very interesting technologies that I got to learn about firsthand – both of which relate to the Vision One Eleven concept seen below.
Mercedes’s concept imagines a new way of augmented driving
One of the stations we were shuffled into at the Mercedes-Benz IDC was an augmented reality experience built around a cockpit that simulates that of the Vision One Eleven concept. When we went and saw the Vision EQXX last year, the automaker was working on some exciting tech in 3D maps in its UX navigation – some of which we’ve seen integrated into actual EQ-line EVs.
With the Vision One Eleven however, the Mercedes design team has taken the reality of the traditional driving experience and accentuated it with augmented vision technology. One that blends seamlessly with your real-world surroundings.
Like much of the tech you’ll hear about surrounding this concept EV, there will need to be some concessions made to actually make it into a production vehicle. The need for special glasses be damned, Mercedes-Benz is dreaming big here and may be well ahead of its time.
The AR experience previews a genuinely plausible future in which our vehicles will interact with us and the world around us through a combination of what’s actually in front of our faces and what is being digitally displayed. Whether its vehicle stats, 3D maps, or nearby points of interest, this experience was a treat to “drive,” and was well executed by the company in my opinion. We won’t see anyone driving around wearing AR goggles any time soon, but I’d imagine there’s a middle ground where the technology is successfully integrated.
Axial flux motors could be the future of electric hypercars
Have you ever heard of YASA? Yeah me neither, but you probably will. The company was founded by Dr. Tim Woolmer back in 2009 while he was still studying at Oxford. Although the market for EVs back then was a mere iota of what it exists as today, Woolmer had the foresight to understand the impending need for smaller, more powerful, and more efficient electric motors in the future.
Fast forward to today and YASA has successfully taken an archaic motor design dating back to the 1820s and optimized it using modern-day technology and materials in truly clever ways. The result is the axial flux motor – a truly viable alternative to traditional radial motors used in most EVs today. After an EV equipped with six axial flux motors ripped up the hill and into the record books at the Pike’s Peak climb in 2015, YASA started to turn some heads – including some big names in hypercars.
Its motors have since been integrated in production vehicles like Koenigsegg Regera, as well as the Ferrari Stradale SF90 hybrid. Naturally, Mercedes-Benz’s performance arm AMG wanted to learn more, which led to the umbrella wholly acquiring YASA in 2021. While YASA does still develop technologies for the automakers mentioned above, Mercedes-Benz and AMG in particular is its prime focus now and going forward.
This week, we got to see the first implementation of axial flux motors in a Mercedes vehicle beneath the Vision One Eleven concept… although how many motors are actually present remains a mystery. In speaking with the automaker’s chief technology officer Markus Schäfer, the Vision One Eleven can house up to four YASA motors, but as for how many are currently on the EV, we were told “multiple.”
Alright, time for the moment you’ve been waiting for. Here’s the new Vision One Eleven concept from Mercedes in all its glory, next to a familiar(?) face that inspired it. Hope you like orange paint and silver leather!
Mercedes’s new concept is an exercise in nostalgic creativity
Before the fog machines got pumping and Mercedes-Benz chief design officer Gorden Wagener rolled out in the radically designed Vision One Eleven concept, the German team was dropping us hints throughout the afternoon.
Whether it was a subtle, untitled photo in a presentation, or a virtual silhouette during the augmented experience, us visitors were eventually able to deduce what we would be viewing. Honestly the orange “One Eleven” branding everywhere was a dead giveaway too.
Mercedes’s latest concept is a nod to the fabled C 111 – a limited group of experimental vehicles from the late ’60s and early ’70s that were used to test turbodiesel engines and polymer-based body shells.
During the debut, we breathed an assuring sigh of affirmation when Markus Schäfer cruised out in one of the few remaining C 111’s in the world. It was quickly followed by the modern-day concept it inspired, the Vision One Eleven. Check the two out side-by-side.
Like the experimental turbodiesel that inspired it, the Vision One Eleven concept is not expected to reach assembly lines. Instead, and like its Vision EQXX sibling, the One Eleven is more of a creative study in design – and a preview of some technologies we may see in production EVs one day.
The exterior design was dreamt up as a statue (the art) sitting atop its black base (the aerodynamics). It also features Mercedes-Benz’s iconic gull-wing doors, just like the original C 111. Gorden Wagener spoke to the design themes that went into the concept:
Our goal at Mercedes-Benz is not to do styling – our goal is to create icons. To me, that makes the difference between mainstream design and luxury. Design icons like the Type 300 SL and C 111 – both with gullwing doors – are part of our DNA. These legendary vehicles were major inspirations for the iconic design of the Mercedes-Benz Vision One-Eleven. This is beauty and the extraordinary united in one vision of the future. Our all-electric vision show car is the modern-day interpretation of the C 111, which was avant-garde at the time. The element of surprise comes from its exceptionally clean, purist and, at the same time, extremely muscular proportions. This iconic clarity is also reflected in the interior. The equally sensual but minimalist design language stands for ICONIC LUXURY by Mercedes-Benz.
The look of it is one thing. We’ll let you peruse the images below for a closer look, but despite its unique aesthetic, Markus Schäfer told us in a roundtable interview that the true focus of the Vision One Eleven concept – particularly, in regard to technologies we could see sooner rather than later – is performance. The Mercedes CTO refrained from sharing any specific details of what the concept can do on the track – but it is designed with technology that could break some records – especially the axial flux motors from YASA.
Schäfer explained that thanks to their considerably smaller size, weight, and increased power density, YASA motors will definitely be a part of Mercedes-Benz-branded EVs in the future, whether its a production hypercar closer in look to the Vision One Eleven, or an AMG performance version of a passenger EV powered by those boring old radial motors.
Another very interesting component (briefly) mentioned by Schäfer was the concept’s liquid-cooled cylindrical batteries, inspired by Formula 1 cell chemistry. During the concept debut, the CTO said Mercedes has some truly exciting battery technology to share with the world… just not yet. We will have to wait for a separate event at a later date (sure to also include more classwork on German engineering for us writers). Schäfer spoke:
The Mercedes-Benz Vision One-Eleven combines breathtaking design with groundbreaking powertrain technology. Like its historical namesake, it explores new paths for the future of sporting performance. At the heart of the compact and extremely efficient powertrain is the innovative YASA axial-flux high-tech electric motor. It offers a motorsport-like power output from a considerably smaller package. This makes the YASA axial-flux motor ideal for electric high-performance vehicles. Combined with the liquid-cooled cylindrical-cell battery with Formula-1 inspired cell chemistry, the Mercedes-Benz Vision One-Eleven is yet another proof point for the broad performance spectrum encompassed by our four-pronged development strategy for electric drive.
So while we likely won’t see a Mercedes-Benz Vision One Eleven on public roads someday, it does offer some exciting hints to what the automaker and its designers are up to. Performance is the name of the game in EVs going forward, as the company seems to still have luxury down pat.
The integration of axial flux motors and this mysterious new battery chemistry could soon offer another echelon of performance trims in existing Mercedes EVs, and/or help power future MB hypercars to new world records.
Next, we will need to see what that aforementioned battery tech is all about, and try to find out where and when we can see YASA’s motors in action within a Mercedes-Benz vehicle, concept or not.
What do we think?
Before y’all start with the “it’s a concept, who cares,” hear me out, please. You should care. Will you be able to buy a Vision One Eleven one day? Probably not. Would you want to though? You see those silver leather seats? Not for me, personally. Eek.
The real star here in my opinion is the YASA motors. The axial flux technology was the talk among many of the writers and definitely one of the most impressive things I saw during the trip. Smart move by MB wholly acquiring this company. Its founder was working to make this technology feasible long before there was a genuine need for it. Hell, there wasn’t even really a bonafide EV industry when Dr. Woolmer was trying to bring the original 1800s design to fruition.
His clever use of liquid cooling and segmented “pole pieces” are genius innovation and should help enable some of the lightest, fastest, and most powerful EVs we’ve ever seen… we just need viable battery technology to keep up.
I’m already looking past the concept reveal and want to learn more about Mercedes’s new batteries. I was assured I’d get the invite, so stay tuned on that. In the meantime, enjoy the imagery above and the debut video below.