The Research Cars of Mercedes-Benz
Oct 17, 2011
Taking its clues from nature – Mercedes-Benz bionic car
  • Vehicle: Mercedes-Benz bionic car
  • Introduced in: June 2005
  • Where: Washington, DaimlerChrysler Innovation Symposium
  • Goals: Investigation of the potential of bionics for automotive development, testing of future-oriented diesel engine technology with a novel emission control (SCR technology)
  • Powertrain: Turbodiesel engine with common rail direct injection, 2.0 litres displacement, 103 kW (140 hp), emission control using SCR technology with “AdBlue”, maintenance-free diesel particulate trap
Technical highlights
  • Outstanding aerodynamic efficiency (drag coefficient cd = 0.19) with bodywork modeled on the boxfish
  • Body-in-white structure based on the SKO method (Soft Kill Option)
  • Advanced diesel engine with direct injection
  • Emission control system using SCR technology with AdBlue reducing nitrogen emissions by up to 80 per cent Commercial vehicles: production launch in the Mercedes-Benz Actros (2005); passenger cars: production launch in the Mercedes-Benz E 320 BLUETEC (2006, W 211 series) in the USA and in 2007 in the Mercedes-Benz E 300 BLUETEC in Europe
  • Maintenance-free diesel particulate trap
  • Consumption of just 4.3 litres of fuel per 100 kilometres (54.7 mpg) in the European driving cycle
  • Infinitely variable AUTOTRONIC automatic transmission Production launch in the Mercedes-Benz B-Class (2005, T 245 series)
  • Door handles which are flush with the outer skin and folded out by electric motors upon being touched
  • Front indicators designed as prismatic optical fibers
  • High-performance light-emitting diodes as position lights
  • Rear light units with high-performance LEDs and prismatic rods
  • Cameras instead of rear-view mirrors
With the Mercedes-Benz bionic car – a concept car – the company investigates the great potential of bionics (the combination of biology and technics) for automotive development. It was found that the interplay of future-oriented diesel engine technology and novel emission control yields outstanding results in fuel economy and the reduction in pollutant emissions. For the first time, the engineers specifically looked for a role model in nature, which lends itself to an aerodynamically efficient, safe, comfortable and environmentally compatible automobile not just in detail features but in its overall form and structure. They found this role model in the boxfish.
This fish, which lives in tropical waters, has excellent flow properties despite its angular, cube-like body and therefore has an aerodynamically ideal shape. On a model representing a true-to-the-original copy of the boxfish body, the engineers measured a drag coefficient (cd) as low as 0.06.
To be able to use this great potential for automotive development, they developed a 1:4-scale car model in a first step, its shape being largely identical with that of the boxfish. On the resulting clay model, a drag coefficient of cd = 0.095 – an extremely low value in automotive engineering – was measured in tests in the wind tunnel. This corresponds to figures which are achieved with so-called streamlined bodies (cd = 0.09) and other ideal shapes in terms of aerodynamic efficiency.
The scientists and engineers drew on the findings from these investigations in the development of the Mercedes-Benz bionic car, a fully operational and ready-to-drive compact car with a length of 4.24 metres. It accommodates four people and their luggage, and in terms of safety, comfort and everyday practicality, it incorporates qualities typical of Mercedes-Benz. With a cd value of 0.19, the concept car ranks among the aerodynamically most efficient automobiles in this category of size.
20 per cent reduction in fuel consumption and nitrogen-oxide emissions lowered by up to 80 per cent
Alongside maximum aerodynamic efficiency and a lightweight concept gleaned from nature, the advanced turbodiesel engine with common rail direct injection (103 kW/140 hp) and novel SCR (Selective Catalytic Reduction) technology contribute to significant reductions in fuel consumption and pollutant emissions. In the European driving cycle, the concept car consumes 4.3 litres of fuel per 100 kilometres (54.7 mpg) – 20 per cent less than a comparable production model. According to the US measuring method (FTP 75), the car does some 70 miles per gallon (combined) – 30 per cent more than a production car. At a constant speed of 90 km/h (56 mph), the direct injection engine consumes 2.8 litres of diesel per 100 kilometres, corresponding to 84 miles per gallon (mpg) in the US test cycle.
With SCR technology and the AdBlue® additive, the nitrogen oxide emissions of the advanced direct injection diesel engine can be reduced by up to 80 per cent. AdBlue® is an aqueous urea solution which is sprayed into the exhaust system, precisely apportioned to match engine operating conditions. This solution triggers the transformation of nitrogen oxides into harmless nitrogen and water. The reservoir for this additive is accommodated in the spare wheel recess of the concept car; its filling lasts for a distance which corresponds to the maintenance interval of a modern Mercedes-Benz diesel-engined model. In addition, the Mercedes-Benz bionic car study is equipped with a maintenance-free diesel particulate trap.
Bodywork structure: Nature’s construction principle for high rigidity and low weight
In cooperation with bionics experts, the company’s researchers developed a computer-based process for transferring the growth principles in nature to automotive engineering. This process is based on the SKO (Soft Kill Option) method: bodywork or chassis components are dimensioned by means of computer simulation in that the material is made ever thinner and finally cut away completely in low-load areas, whereas highly stressed areas are reinforced. By applying the SKO method to the entire body-in-white structure, weight is reduced by some 30 per cent, while the high levels of stability, crashworthiness and driving dynamics remain unchanged. The reduction in weight thus renders an important contribution to a further improvement in fuel economy.
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