At the 2023 Munich auto show, Mercedes-Benz unveiled a concept car previewing future efficiency-focused EVs.
The Mercedes-Benz Concept CLA-Class borrows the name of a current internal-combustion model but shows off the engineering of the Mercedes-Benz Modular Architecture (MMA) that will serve as the basis for four compact EVs in multiple body styles.
The exterior keeps the same general “four-door coupe” shape as the current CLA-Class, but with headlights and taillights in the shape of the Mercedes logo, a “grille” populated by 264 Mercedes stars, and an additional 652 stars in the glass roofs. Low-energy LEDs were used for this vehicular firmament, according to Mercedes.
Regardless of body style, the MMA platform is designed around a “remarkably small” battery pack, with multiple chemistries available to customers. Entry-level versions will use lithium iron phosphate (LFP) chemistry, while high-end versions will use chemistry with an anode made with silicon oxide. Mercedes claims lighter weigh and greater structural stiffness with this new pack.
The Concept CLA-Class also incorporates engineering lessons learned from the Mercedes-Benz Vision EQXX, the record-setting EV prototype that proved what could be gained by emphasizing efficiency when it covered 746 miles on a single charge in 2022. The concept’s silicon-carbide power electronics, battery-cell packaging, and heat pump are derived from EQXX designs, according to Mercedes.
Mercedes also applied the “bionic” engineering method of individual components from the EQXX, using structural castings for suspension components and other parts that mimic structures found in nature. This helps achieve the requisite strength while using less material.
An 800-volt electrical architecture allows for DC fast charging at up to 250 kw, recovering up to 248 miles of range in 15 minutes, according to Mercedes. This new electrical architecture also incorporates vehicle-to-grid (V2G) and vehicle-to-home (V2H) capability).
A single electric motor containing what Mercedes says is a “near zero” amount of rare earth metals sends 235 hp to the rear wheels through a 2-speed transmission. Mercedes claims the entire powertrain, with power electronics, weighs just 243 pounds and can achieve 93% efficiency in transferring power to the road.
The interior features some sustainable materials first shown in the EQXX, including floor mats woven from bamboo fiber and a vegan-certified silk-like fabric. Polyester textile upholstery made from recycled PET plastic and nappa leather tanned with coffee bean shells were also used. The Mercedes Superscreen display, similar to the one in the EQXX, uses a new MB.OS chip-to-cloud architecture that makes software development easier, according to Mercedes.
Mercedes says the concept has an SAE Level 2 driver-assistance system, but claims this will be upgraded to Level 3 (subject to local regulations) in the production CLA with the addition of lidar. A rear-seat child detection system using sensors that detective breathing patterns is included as well.
The production Mercedes CLA EV isn’t expected to arrive until at least 2024, likely as a 2025 model, but for now existing Mercedes EVs like the EQS offer impressive efficiency despite their 400-volt underpinnings.
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