This Mercedes-Benz Concept IAA can change shape to improve efficiency
Alongside high-profile announcements from the likes of Porsche and Audi, Mercedes-Benz has unveiled a new concept car at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show. Named the Concept IAA, Mercedes-Benz believes it represents a sign of things to come, featuring movable aerodynamics as well as a next-generation cockpit.
The Concept IAA may look good, but every curve on the car is designed to serve a purpose. While all automotive manufacturers pursue increased efficiency in the powertrain, the Concept IAA looks for efficiency through the air.
“The ‘Concept IAA’ applies intelligent innovations to resolve the conflicting aims of functionality and aesthetics, and shows that we still have plenty of ideas on how to achieve further improvements in efficiency,” says Professor Dr Thomas Weber, head of Mercedes-Benz cars development.
Using a mixture of complex algorithms and hours of computing, the Concept IAA can achieve a Cd value of 0.19, but only with the help of movable aerodynamics. Upon reaching 80km/h, the Concept IAA is designed to change its shape to one better suited for going through the air.
Eight segments extend from the rear, increasing the length of the car by 390mm, while movable elements at the front of the car help clean up airflow through the wheels and under the body of the car.
The result? The Mercedes uses less power to cut through the air, giving it better fuel efficiency. In normal mode, the car’s plug-in hybrid drive is able to drive for 62km and gives C02 emissions of 31g per kilometre, while the car’s aerodynamic mode extends that to 66km and 28g per kilometre.
That may not seem particularly impressive, but Mercedes says this is because the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) used to calculate the figures is heavily weighted to urban driving – which doesn’t play to the Concept IAA’s strengths.
Inside, Mercedes has focused heavily on the concept of “hands on the wheel, eyes on the road”. This means that while the Concept IAA does have a dash-mounted touchscreen, much of the car’s functions can also be controlled via touch-sensitive areas on the steering wheel.
With power such a limited resource, and battery technology improving on a slow, incremental basis, hybrid and electric vehicle (EV) manufacturers are looking at more and more unusual areas to improve the efficiency of their cars. Land Rover recently developed a low-power mode air-conditioning mode to reduce the strain on EVs, and the Mercedes-Benz Concept IAA takes an even more drastic approach.
Although they may look showy – or even pretentious – movable aerodynamics clearly improve the efficiency of the car, particularly on long journeys. It’s possible that Mercedes-Benz has just given us a glimpse into the future.