The really wonderful thing about CES is the opportunity to chat with the people at the coal face of innovation. CES 2023 was no different and saw us get up close and personal with Mercedes-Benz’s EQXX concept and the men and women who made this special car a reality.

We see concept cars come and go. They are often just mock ups of ideas, powered by nothing more than hopes and dreams. In an ultimate display of muscle flexing, Mercedes-Benz has taken their 2022 EQXX concept car and made the dream a reality. The 2023 EQXX concept is fully functioning, being pressed into duty to take journos on hour long test drives, including cutting a lap of the Vegas strip. 

Just so we’re clear, can I remind you that this is a ONE of ONE multi-million dollar concept car mixing it with the traffic on the mean streets of Las Vegas. It is an immense gamble for Mercedes, risking a near priceless prototype in regular traffic, but an important reminder that the company is still a major force in automotive innovation. 

We used our time with Mercedes to chat with Con Zager, the electric drivetrain engineer of the Mercedes-Benz Vision EQXX, as he explained just why this concept car from Mercedes-Benz is so special.

Zager explained that Mercedes-Benz believes that hyper-efficiency is the key to obtaining extraordinary range from electric vehicles. This EQXX, for example, has demonstrated a real-world range of over 1200 km. Importantly, this isn’t twelve hundred test track, controlled conditions kilometers – this is TWELVE HUNDRED real-world, Stuttgart to London kilometers. Importantly, many of the innovations seen in the EQXX will have a direct impact on Mercedes models in the near future. 

The aerodynamics of this car are critically important to it achieving such an extraordinary range. “If you want to make a car that runs more than a thousand kilometers like this one on a small battery, the first thing you have to get right is aerodynamics”, Zager explained. Over 60% of the energy used by an electric vehicle is directly related to aerodynamics. The EQXX’s unique shape results in not only a stunningly beautiful car but also a 0.17 drag coefficient. For comparison, a boxy Jeep Wrangler has a drag coefficient of around 0.55 while the relatively slippery Toyota Prius has a drag coefficient of 0.25. As you can see, what Mercedes has achieved with a medium sized sedan is remarkable. 

A drive around Vegas with the EQXX’s Electric Drive Engineer, Conrad Sagert, unlocked even more of the car’s secrets. The automated rear diffuser extends and retracts to maximise drag coefficient, while retracting to aid parking. 

When quizzed about the modest performance of the EQXX (0-100kph in 7 seconds and 140kph top speed), Sagret is adamant that we are seeing a new type of performance – extreme efficiency. Sagret, a rev-head at heart, explained that, if the EQXX was to enter regular production, a sportier, faster, less efficient AMG EQXX would be likely. Still, I tend to like this new way to view performance (besides, the EQXX is still faster than the Ferrari 308 that Magnum P.I. drove). 

I can’t express enough just how much flexing Mercedes has done with the EQXX. For example, this is a concept car with fully functioning infotainment systems. Ultra lightweight speaker designs allow for the driver to be receiving audio input from the audio system while the passenger remains oblivious to this interruption to cabin ambience. Likewise, passengers are completely oblivious to inputs from systems that only the driver needs, such as blindspot assist or park assist.

In an attempt to address range anxiety once and for all, EQXX engineers have worked hard to develop sensors that can give real time updates to range predictions. A multitude of sensors monitor air pressure at the front of the car, seeking information about wind strength and direction – both factors that can affect range. Likewise, by removing power demands from 12 volt systems (such as display screens and interior fans) further battery efficiencies are achieved. Much of the 12 volt needs of the car are met by solar panels on the roof, bonnet and boot lid. Extreme attention is paid to not only aerodynamics but also to overall vehicle weight. Efficiencies here means that the battery pack can get away with being passively cooled – something that would be impossible with very high output batteries. Passive cooling does away with liquid cooling, saving even more weight. 

Sagret insists that the EQXX must still be a Mercedes-Benz, not just a concept car test mule. For this reason, full wheel covers, despite reducing drag even further, were rejected. Instead, the front axle on the EQXX is slightly wider than the rear axle in order to push air away from the open wheel wells. 

The whole point of the EQXX is to show what the near EV future looks like. Chasing efficiency through weight, drag and power wastage has so many benefits to not just the EQXX project but all cars, especially electric vehicles. For far too long cars have become ever more bloated and inefficient in order to chase irrelevant top speeds or 0 – 100kph times. The EQXX is a chance to reassess what ‘performance’ looks like as we move ever closer to electric vehicles being the norm. 

EFTM’s Coverage of CES 2023 is made possible by the ongoing support of our regular advertisers and supporters such as Arlo, Belkin, Oppo, Netgear, JBL and Trend Micro, and by additional support from Samsung, LG, Hisense, TCL, BMW and Boost Mobile.