Mercedes-Benz CTO Markus Schäfer on the future of electric mobility – Gulf Business

Mercedes-Benz CTO Markus Schäfer shares the future of electric mobility

Images: Supplied

With an impressive range of more than 620 miles (1,000 kilometres) on a single charge and an energy consumption of less than 10 kWh/100 kilometres, the Mercedes-Benz VISION EQXX represents the next generation of electric mobility.

The advanced prototype boasts superior powertrain efficiency – from battery to wheels. It features a remarkable drag coefficient of 0.17 and a lightweight bionic design. The user experience, powered by its advanced software-driven interface, is also next-gen, seamlessly integrating real-time data to enhance the driver’s interaction with the vehicle.

The car’s solar roof features 117 solar cells that power many of its ancillaries, reducing the energy drain on the high-voltage system and enhancing overall efficiency.

Vision EQXX Image Supplied

Successful road trip

Mercedes showcased the EQXX at the recent LEAP 2024 event in Saudi Arabia. During the event, the electric vehicle (EV) embarked on its third road trip from Riyadh to Dubai to demonstrate its capabilities, leaving in its wake zero emissions and high expectations. It delivered on all counts, as it has on its previous European sojourns in April 2022 (when it debuted on open roads) and later in June of the same year.

The 1,010-kilometre (627.6 miles) journey, which concluded at the Mercedes-Benz Brand Center in Dubai, lasted 14 hours and 42 minutes. The vehicle left Riyadh at 4.15 am with a full battery. It arrived in Dubai at 7.57 pm, with 309 kilometres (192 miles) of range still left despite navigating busy city roads and highways through the open desert.

Despite driving in ambient (desert) temperatures of up to 34 degrees Celsius, the vehicle bested its previous record by a considerable margin. The car’s advanced thermal management and intelligent on-demand system kept the electric drivetrain and cabin cool.

With its performance consistently ticking all the boxes, the EQXX is more than just a concept car or prototype, it represents the auto giant’s commitment to creating sustainable transportation, says Markus Schäfer, Mercedes CTO. Its consistent performance means the technology is highly likely to be incorporated into the automaker’s models in the future.

We had the opportunity to speak to Schäfer ahead of the EQXX’s trip to Dubai. He shared how the EQXX is a key part of the brand’s commitment to drive the future of electric mobility. He also shed light on how AI and autonomous technologies are further transforming the automotive landscape. Here are excerpts from the discussion.

Tell us what Mercedes-Benz showcased at LEAP.

We showcased a technology product – an electric vehicle – in partnership with Mobily at the event. The record-breaking EQXX is not just a prototype, but a key part of our technology programme at Mercedes-Benz. As the inventor of the automobile, we are paving the way for the electric future.

Why is the EQXX an important milestone for the company?

The automotive industry is amidst a transition, and EVs are at the forefront of this evolution. The EQXX represents a pivotal milestone in electric mobility and our commitment to reducing carbon emissions and advancing sustainable transportation. The car marks our relentless pursuit of pushing the limits and redefining what is possible.

Through rigorous innovation and engineering excellence, the EQXX has achieved remarkable feats, including completing several record drives spanning over 1,200 kilometres on a single battery charge. This achievement underscores our goal to maximise the efficient use of electric energy, thereby extending the range, and enhancing the viability of electric vehicles for everyday use.

Moreover, the EQXX’s journey from Riyadh to Dubai symbolises our confidence in its capabilities and our eagerness to showcase its performance on a real-world scale.

Tell us about the company’s consistent focus on sustainability.

Since 2018, Mercedes-Benz has been spearheading a transformational path towards sustainability, marked by the introduction of Ambition 2039. This strategic vision outlines our commitment to achieving net-zero carbon emissions across our entire value chain by 2039.

Achieving this goal requires a multifaceted approach, combining technological innovation, collaboration with our suppliers, and the widespread adoption of electric vehicles powered by renewable energy sources. Electric mobility plays a pivotal role in our sustainability agenda, serving as a key driver in our efforts to mitigate carbon emissions and transition towards a sustainable future.

What are the other areas where the company is driving transformation?

The future of electric mobility is a convergence of two pivotal trends: the digitalisation of automobiles and the transition to electric drives. These are not just trends but fundamental shifts that are reshaping the automotive landscape. At Mercedes-Benz, we see ourselves as leaders in propelling this transformation forward.

Where digitalisation is concerned, artificial intelligence (AI) is helping enhance customer experiences and streamline our operations. Recognising the paramount importance of customer satisfaction, we’ve embarked on a journey to own the software of our cars. With the introduction of our proprietary operating system, MB.OS, we will achieve a significant milestone, enabling us to leverage AI to its fullest potential.

From autonomous driving to infotainment and beyond, AI is deeply embedded in our software, enabling us to deliver unparalleled customer experiences while optimising our internal processes.

Moreover, partnerships play a pivotal role in our technological endeavours. As we expand our global footprint, we understand the importance of catering to diverse preferences and local needs. Our in-house software stack provides us with the flexibility to collaborate with various partners worldwide while maintaining a consistent and seamless user experience across different regions.

In terms of research and development (R&D), our commitment to innovation is unwavering. With an annual investment of between EUR7-8bn, we’re channelling resources into pioneering new technologies and platforms.

What are the other key trends you see emerging see in the automotive sector?

Two significant trends stand out: the rise of immersive experiences and the advancement of autonomous driving technology.

There’s a pronounced shift towards creating immersive experiences within vehicles, particularly electric-connected vehicles. It’s not just about enhancing audio or video experiences; it’s about creating multi-sensory experiences that transcend the traditional automotive setting. Imagine yourself in a ‘mobile’ theatre where every element, from sound to scent, contributes to a multi-dimensional experience tailored to your preferences.

At Mercedes-Benz, we’re pioneering this concept of an intelligent car, a companion that engages, assists, and entertains, ultimately enhancing your safety, productivity, and relaxation on the road.

Secondly, the rise of autonomous driving technology represents a monumental leap forward in automotive innovation. We’re witnessing a progression from basic driver assistance systems to more advanced autonomous capabilities, particularly between level two and level three autonomies.

We have emerged as a leader in this domain, becoming the first company to receive permits for level three autonomous driving (Drive Pilot) in select regions for the S-class sedan and EQS in Germany, and California and Nevada in the US. With the ability to legally hand over driving responsibilities to the vehicle, passengers can now engage in various activities previously restricted by the need to focus on the road. This opens a world of possibilities for visual content consumption and redefines the in-car experience.

What other goals is the company working towards?

For 138 years, Mercedes-Benz has meticulously cultivated its brand. Our three-pointed star symbolises not just luxury but a legacy of excellence, safety and quality. As we venture into a new era defined by electric, connected and hyper-personalised vehicles, we remain steadfast in preserving what made us strong while embracing the modern features of e-mobility, connectivity, and intelligence.

Our journey ahead is one of evolution, propelled by innovation, collaboration, and a commitment to delivering exceptional experiences to our customers.

As we expand our presence, particularly in regions like Saudi Arabia and the Middle East, we recognise the immense potential for collaboration with local technology leaders and regulators. Building strategic partnerships across various sectors is pivotal in shaping the future of mobility.

We believe in a collaborative approach that brings together auto companies, technology firms, governments, regulators, and energy providers to create a sustainable and connected future for mobility.


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