Ever since the early days of motorsport, engineers have dreamed of bringing motor racing technology to the road. Mercedes-AMG is now making this dream a reality at the very highest level with the Project ONE.
The concept car also gives indications of what to expect from the upcoming production model, hinted Tobias Moers, Head of Management at Mercedes-AMG. “The hypercar is the most ambitious project we have ever undertaken. It marks yet another pinnacle of the successful, strategic development of Mercedes-AMG towards a performance and sports car brand. Project ONE raises the bar in terms of what is currently technologically feasible and thanks to its combination of efficiency and performance it represents an absolute benchmark. At the same time, Project ONE provides an outlook on how AMG will define driving performance in the future.”.
The high-performance plug-in hybrid drive system of the Project ONE comes directly from Formula 1, and was realised in close cooperation with the motorsport experts of Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains. It consists of a highly integrated and intelligently networked unit comprising one hybrid, turbocharged combustion engine with a total of four electric motors. One has been integrated into the turbocharger, another has been installed directly on the combustion engine with a link to the crankcase and the two remaining motors drive the front wheels.
The 1.6-litre V6 hybrid petrol engine with direct injection and electrically assisted single turbocharging comes directly from the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 racing car. The four overhead camshafts are driven by spur gears. To achieve high engine speeds, the mechanical valve springs have been replaced by pneumatic valve springs. The vehicle is mid-engined (ahead of the rear axle) and it can easily reach speeds of 11,000 rpm, which is currently unique for a roadgoing vehicle. However, for higher longevity and the use of commercially available Super Plus petrol instead of racing fuel, it remains significantly below the F1 engine speed limit.
The very high-revving engine is additionally boosted by a high-tech turbocharger. The exhaust gas and compressor turbines are separated from one another and located at an optimum position to the exhaust side and to the intake side of the V6 engine, and connected to one another by a shaft. This shaft features an electric motor with approximately 90 kW which, depending on the operating status, electrically drives the compressor turbine with up to 100,000 rpm – for instance when moving off or following load changes. The Formula 1 designation for this unit is MGU-H (Motor Generator Unit Heat). The electric motors on the front axle are also true rev wonders, with rotor revolutions up to 50,000 rpm – current state of the art is a speed of 20,000 rpm.
The major advantage is that the dreaded turbo lag – the delayed response to accelerator pedal commands owing to the inertia of the large charger – is completely eliminated. The response time is greatly reduced, and is even shorter than that of a naturally aspirated V8 engine. The electric turbocharger brings about another advantage: it uses parts of the surplus energy from the exhaust system to generate electricity, and either stores it in the high-voltage lithium-ion battery as part of recuperation or provides additional drive power by feeding it to an additional electric motor. This motor produces 120 kW, has been installed directly on the engine and features a link to the crankshaft via a spur gear (MGU-K = Motor Generator Unit Kinetic) – another technology that ensures maximum efficiency and performance in F1.
There will also be two further 120 kW electric motors at the front axle. Each is connected to a front wheel via a reduction gear. The fully electrically driven front axle allows individual acceleration and braking of each front wheel, and therefore selective torque distribution (torque vectoring) for particularly high levels of vehicle dynamics. With the axle motors, it is estimated that up to 80% of the braking energy can also be optimally used for recuperation under everyday driving conditions. This energy is stored in the battery and is available for a longer electric range. Each electric motor is controlled by its own power electronics located in close proximity to the electric motors in the floor assembly.
The battery cells, their arrangement and the cell cooling system are the same as used in the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula 1 racing car. However, the quantity of battery cells in the Project ONE will make it significantly more practical for everyday use. The lithium-ion, high-voltage battery and the DC/DC converter supporting and charging the 12V onboard electrical system are accommodated in the vehicle floor behind the front axle.
As a further innovation, the high-voltage EQ Power+ drive system operates with 800 volts instead of the usual 400 volts. Thanks to the higher voltage levels it is possible to influence elements, such as significantly reducing the cable diameters and accordingly saving design space and weight.
Overall the high-performance EQ Power+ plug-in hybrid drive system offers numerous intelligent operating strategies which are optimally tuned to different application scenarios. The driving modes range from purely electric operation (25-km range is claimed) through to a highly dynamic mode which corresponds to a setting used in Formula 1 qualifying for optimum lap times. Despite the high system complexity, and depending on the current requirement, the driver will always receive the optimum combination of performance and efficiency.
For instance, the driver can move off purely electrically, initially with just the electric motors on the front axle driving the hypercar and the electric motor on the crankshaft supporting short-term acceleration wishes. If the driver presses the accelerator more firmly and demands more output, the V6 engine also switches on. The drive system unfolds its full power as the engine speed increases. Impressive acceleration figures are possible with the Race Start function: acceleration from 0 to 200 km/h takes under 6 seconds. If the driver’s foot leaves the accelerator again to let the car coast, the system switches to electric drive at the front axle – whilst braking under normal driving conditions recuperates up to 80% of the energy, which is fed into the battery.
Power is transferred to the rear wheels by an 8-speed manual transmission that has been entirely developed from scratch for the car. It is activated hydraulically and can be operated in automated mode or manually using the shift paddles.
The basis for the outstanding driving characteristics of the Project ONE is provided by the lightweight, high-strength carbonfibre monocoque body, the technology of which likewise comes from Formula 1. The same applies to integration of the engine and transmission: both have load-bearing functions and completely support the rear suspension.
Another completely new development is the 10-spoke forged aluminium wheel with centre lock, which is exclusively reserved for the Project ONE. This has a radial carbonfibre semi-cover with an aerodynamically sophisticated shape: this improves the car’s aerodynamics and Cd figure by optimising the airflow around the wheels. At the same time, three flat ventilation slots per spoke section ensure optimum heat dissipation from the brakes.
The car is equipped with an advanced, weight-optimised ceramic high-performance compound braking system. Its low weight reduces the unsprung masses, thus improving driving dynamics and agility. Furthermore, the ceramic brakes are distinguished by a longer service life, higher corrosion resistance and higher thermal stability. The ‘AMG Carbon Ceramic’ lettering and the specially painted brake callipers visually distinguish this unique braking system.
The lightweight construction is also obvious from the slim, wing-like profile of the dashboard in the cabin. It appears to be light and free-floating; as a functional, structural component, it also helps to enhance rigidity of the monocoque. The two high-resolution, free-standing 10-inch displays are adapted with high-quality and weight-optimised solid metal components.
The user interface is integrated as an autonomous concept. The most important information is displayed on the road in the line of vision above the steering wheel, so that the driver is not distracted. To ensure optimum visibility to the rear, the rear-view mirror is replaced by a screen showing real-time images of the rear from a mirror cam. The aluminium screen housing is fully integrated into the roof, and also holds other controls.
The steering wheel with flattened upper and lower sections and an integrated airbag offers motorsport functionality, as do the two integrated controllers which can be used to set adjustment functions, such as the driving modes and suspension setup, or the LED shift display in the upper steering wheel area.
The door panels are in functional, high-grade carbonfibre, and integrate smoothly into the sporty interior. As if to mirror the aero winglets of the exterior, the door panelling is visually interrupted to create space for technical implements and a generously concave door centre panel. An aluminium cassette combines the air vents and power window switches, which are integrated as deeply recessed rectangles.
The choice of colours and materials take inspiration from the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 racing car. The sculptured racing seats are in slip-resistant black microfibre, creating an unmistakable association with motor racing. The seat surfaces are interspersed with nappa leather in magma grey and inlays in a sporty textile mesh which optimally assists the air circulation of the seats. There is also yellow contrasting topstitching.
“Motorsport is not an end in itself for us. Faced with intense competition, we develop technologies from which our production vehicles also subsequently benefit. We are drawing on our experiences and successes from three constructors’ and drivers’ world championships to bring Formula 1 technology to the road for the first time,” said Dr Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars.
Obviously, with a projected pricetag of 2.27 million euros (about RM11.4 million), Mercedes-AMG isn’t going to make very many of these cars but there will be at least 275 units for sale, with deliveries from late 2019.