Mercedes-Benz presented a new sports car study. The Vision One-Eleven combines a highly dynamic design language with innovative all-electric powertrain technology. The supercar silhouette is characterised by skilful execution of the signature Mercedes-Benz One-Bow design that is a marker of its 21st-century style. The development of this design underscores the positioning of the Mercedes-Benz brand, which stands for ICONIC LUXURY. Its technical highlights include the extremely powerful and highly efficient axial-flux motor developed by electric motor specialist YASA. The British company has been a 100-percent subsidiary of Mercedes-Benz AG since July 2021.
The Mercedes-Benz Vision One-Eleven is inspired by the tradition of the legendary C 111 experimental vehicles from the 1960s and 70s, which were used to test revolutionary Wankel and turbodiesel engines. They were also prototypes for testing polymer-based bodyshells. The extremely (aero)dynamic mid-engine sports cars are considered design icons of their era, not least due to their distinctive gullwing doors and eye-catching orange-and-black paintwork.
“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.” Gorden Wagener, Chief Design Officer, Mercedes-Benz Group AG
“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.” Markus Schäfer, Member of the Board of Management of Mercedes-Benz Group AG, Chief Technology Officer
The exterior – One-Bow design in its most athletic form
The body of the Mercedes-Benz Vision One-Eleven centres on skilful execution of the One-Bow design. From the low-slung front end to the muscular hind quarters, it runs in a smooth bow that endows the just 1,170 mm-high vehicle silhouette with an extremely sculptural feel. This harmonises perfectly with the copper-orange alubeam paintwork. It provides an unmistakeable reference to the distinctive colour of the C 111 without adopting it one-to-one. The colour of the Mercedes-Benz Vision One-Eleven is considerably more powerful than that of the C 111 and also changes with the light. It conveys not only a sense of quality but also a certain extravagance.
Further notable features of the side view include the flush-fit gullwing doors and the side windows, which are opaque from the outside and camouflaged by a pixelated pattern. Yet another is the large-diameter wheels inserted seamlessly into the wheel arches beneath voluminous flared wings. This reinforces the impression of an uncompromisingly sporty and aerodynamically refined driving machine. The wheel design incorporates powerfully structured elements evocative of electric motor windings – a clear indicator of the state-of-the-art, all-electric powertrain underpinning the Mercedes-Benz Vision One-Eleven. They stand in spirited contrast to the vehicle’s iconic, minimalist and smooth surface design, which is more akin to a sculptural art piece. This contrast is typical of the X-factors the brand applies to its design thinking and a distinctive feature of the Vision One-Eleven.
Another striking contrast arises through the very low-slung front and rear skirts finished in matte black. The two deeply scooped aerodynamic elements are visually connected by two blade profiles in the same colour running along the flanks beneath the sills. These profiles feature piercings that are backlit in blue. The functional aerodynamic elements also serve as a further design reference to the C 111, which is painted black on the lower portion of its bodyshell. The dark “keel line” of the Mercedes-Benz Vision One-Eleven generates an impression of seamless transition between the vehicle and the ground beneath it that is even more powerful than that of the C 111. The form of the car appears fused with the road surface.
The front-end design – iconic high-tech look with historical reference
From the frontal aspect, too, the Mercedes-Benz Vision One-Eleven is powerfully evocative of the C 111. In detail, however, there are striking differences: One stand-out example is the distinctive front end, which on both vehicles consists of a low-lying rectangular element with rounded ends left and right. On the C 111, this is a closed plastic element with a honeycomb structure, fitted with round foglamps. The corresponding part on the Vision One-Eleven appears very similar at first glance. However, upon closer inspection, it reveals itself as a high-tech feature. The panel is a flexible external display with a 3D pixelated look. It interprets the C 111’s characteristic round lights in digitised form and can also convey messages to other road users.
In contrast to the C 111, the Mercedes-Benz Vision One-Eleven bears a U-shaped and strongly profiled front apron. Above the slender light band, both forefather and descendant show further similarities, most notably the black air intakes on the bonnet.
The rear-end design – aerodynamic features and digital elements
The rear-end of the Mercedes-Benz Vision One-Eleven is likewise dominated by a powerfully profiled diffuser. Spanning the breadth above it is a display that echoes the shape of its counterpart at the front end and features the same pixelated structure in the red taillights. Similar to the blade profiles along the sides, blue lighting effects are also visible at the rear. The inner face of the wheels is fitted with circular lighting elements.
The interior design – first sports car interior with a lounge concept
Inside, the Mercedes-Benz Vision One-Eleven presents the first sports car interior with a lounge concept. It reflects the paradigm shift from self-driven sports car to autonomous electric vehicle within the super sportscar segment and unites two completely different states of being. In race mode with the backrest upright and the compact driver-oriented touchscreen, the interior becomes that of a minimalist driving machine. Conversely, in lounge mode, the seats are fully integrated into the interior sculpture, which merges sills, centre tunnel and luggage compartment into a single unit.
This creates a whole new, exceptionally airy spatial concept. In contrast to previous mid-engine sports cars, it takes advantage of the compact proportions of electric motors to extend the interior rearwards. Consequently, the lounge-like interior invites occupants to take their time and relax – a completely new approach for the sports car of the future.
Futuristic and luxurious ambience with contrasting colours
The interior design of the Vision One-Eleven reflects future luxury based on a progressive colour concept and extraordinary material combinations. The richly contrasting colours and materials attract attention at first glance: Large surfaces such as the dashboard are upholstered in white fabric displaying a tech-look honeycomb structure. The material is made from 100-percent recycled polyester. Other elements such as the armrests on the sills and centre console, as well as the rear parcel shelf beneath the expansive rear windscreen, are clad in bright orange leather. This creates a smooth transition from interior to luggage compartment. The sustainably processed leather was tanned using coffee bean husks. Polished aluminium in the steering-wheel spokes and inlaid as straps across the armrests underscore the tech look and feel. The same applies to the brake and accelerator pedals, both of which are made from polished aluminium and floor mounted.
Otherwise, the interior equipment in the Mercedes-Benz Vision One-Eleven has been reduced to a minimum. Like the exterior, the task here too was to keep the number of add-on features to a bare minimum. The seats are good examples as they don’t follow the classic format. Instead, the seat cushions are integrated flush-fit into the floor. This creates the initial impression of the bucket seat in a Formula 1 race car. The orange four-point harness and its high-gloss polished buckle further reinforce the sporting character.
Nevertheless, the innovative seats combine this sporting feel with luxurious comfort because, unlike in a Formula 1 race car, the angle of the backrest can be adjusted. The silver shimmer of their diamond-quilted upholstery is another eyecatcher that underscores the first-class interior ambience. Between the seats is a compact centre console, freestanding in space like a work of art.
The only highly complex feature in the interior is the leather-clad steering wheel, which is fitted with various functional controls and state-of-the-art touch elements. This is complemented by a compact touchscreen with high-resolution display mounted to the side of the steering wheel and angled towards the driver. It shows all relevant vehicle information as required.
Fusion of analogue and digital – UI/UX with retro-futuristic pixel-look
The contrast to the modern interior is provided by the slender pixel display spanning the entire breadth of the dashboard, picking up on the form of the front and rear light bands. Here too, the pixel structure is intentionally coarse, which gives the information displayed – such as the current speed – a strikingly bold appearance. Moreover, the 3D pixel display shows digital art pieces as a coarsely rasterised stream of QR codes in the style of “early digital” news tickers. This is done with the help of glass pixels that show a changing colour gradient depending on the viewing angle. The corresponding real image then appears razor sharp on the high-resolution screen next to the steering wheel.
This combination of vastly differing representations of the same image embodies a further interpretation of the MBUX Hyperscreen with a focus on flexible interfaces. The retro-futuristic, 8-bit look thus creates an additional X-factor. The development in the Mercedes-Benz Vision One-Eleven reinforces the increasing fusion of physical and digital.
Creating an experimental spatial user interface – augmented reality takes the user experience to a new level
For the premiere of the Vision One-Eleven, Mercedes-Benz designers have created a visionary user experience with the aid of augmented reality (AR), setting it inside a virtual prototype of the Vision One-Eleven interior. As soon as the driver dons the Magic Leap 2 augmented reality headset, their experience is enriched with high-definition digital content that is contextually integrated into their surroundings. It creates a seamless spatial blend of physical interior and digital user interface beyond the screen. In effect, the entire car becomes the user interface.
Mercedes-Benz has been exploring the benefits of AR since the launch of the F015 concept car in 2015. The AR UI in this new car presents a vision of the future that works on two levels: the information attached to the dashboard and information placed in the environment inside and outside the car. This marks the next step from screen-based UI with Mercedes-Benz intuitive zero-layer technology to an AR UI that arranges zero-layer elements around the user in space. Elements include modules, 3D icons and the navigation map. The control interface around the dashboard and steering wheel is also augmented with additional contextualised information attached to actual objects such as buttons or switches.
The 180-degree AR view incorporates the world outside the virtual prototype – fusing the car effortlessly with its surroundings and placing the driver at the centre. Map elements are projected into the environment, which is enriched with further information such as places of interests or hidden hazards such as roadworks beyond a bend. With this X-ray view, the system enhances situational awareness by blending out unimportant details to create an uncluttered image of relevant input. Elements that obstruct the driver’s line of sight – such as the A-pillar, doors or even the bonnet – then appear “transparent”. Mercedes-Benz designers and experts worked with the technical specialists at Magic Leap to develop and refine the AR experience showcased in the Vision One-Eleven using the highly advanced Magic Leap 2 AR glasses.
The spatial user interface is a beacon for a Mercedes-Benz user experience that is unencumbered by technology. It is part of a wider vision that looks towards extended reality, whereby technology and hardware cease to be the focal point; instead becoming fully integrated and seamless facilitators of user needs and wishes.
Innovative electric powertrain – high-performance axial-flux motor and all-new battery technology
Technology highlights include a new battery concept featuring high-performance liquid-cooled cylindrical cells with a novel cell chemistry. Once more, the extensive knowledge of the motorsport experts from Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrain in Brixworth found its way into this promising concept for future performance-oriented batteries. Aside from that, the Vision One-Eleven features two exceptionally powerful and advanced axial-flux motors from YASA. Mercedes-Benz is developing this technology together with YASA to large scale production maturity for its next-generation electric drives. YASA is a British electric-motor specialist based in Oxford and has been a 100-percent subsidiary of Mercedes-Benz AG since July 2021. The company has thus secured access to a unique future technology that has the potential to take electric mobility to a new level of performance.
“Axial-flux motors are significantly lighter and more compact, yet more powerful than comparable radial-flux motors currently used in 99 percent of all electric cars. In an axial-flux motor, the electromagnetic flow runs parallel to the motor’s rotational axis, which is highly efficient. In a radial-flux motor, the flow runs perpendicular to the rotational axis. Compared to radial-flux motors, they have considerably higher and more enduring power reserves, which delivers a whole new level of performance.” Tim Woolmer, Founder and Chief Technology Officer of YASA
Alongside its power and torque density, another major benefit is the narrow package, which reduces both its weight and dimensions. The weight of an axial-flux motor is just one third of that of current electric motors with the same power output. At the same time, it requires just one-third of the space occupied by a radial-flux motor. This opens up completely new options for engineers as well as new freedoms in the design of an electric vehicle as demonstrated by the Vision One-Eleven.
The future generation of YASA axial-flux motors will be produced at the Mercedes-Benz Berlin-Marienfelde plant. The motors manufactured there will be at the heart of the forthcoming powertrain for the performance segment.