January 4, 2022

Mercedes' new electric concept car uses mushrooms and cacti to build its seats

The futuristic concept car, unveiled on Monday, was designed with sustainability in mind.

npr news mercedes electric car 1 Mercedes-Benz unveiled their electric vehicle concept car, the VISION EQXX.
Mercedes-Benz AG – Communications/Mercedes-Benz AG

Mercedes-Benz has unveiled a new futuristic and sustainable electric concept car — one that could one day take drivers from New York City to Detroit on just a single charge.

The car, which the German automaker has dubbed the VISION EQXX, can travel roughly 1,000 kilometers, or about 620 miles, on a single charge based on computer simulated testing. By comparison, the first Nissan Leaf electric vehicle could go 74 miles on a single charge; many electric cars today can go about 300 miles or more on one charge.

The futuristic concept car, unveiled on Monday, was designed with sustainability in mind. The interior of the VISION EQXX is free of animal products — its seats are made of mushroom fibers and cactus fibers. The carpets are made of bamboo, and the interior plastic is made out of trash that would typically be in a landfill. Using these materials halve the carbon footprint of leather, according to Mercedes.

npr news mercedes electric car 2 The carpets in the VISION EQXX are made from 100% bamboo fiber, and the seats are made of mushroom fibers and cactus fibers.
Mercedes-Benz AG – Communications/Mercedes-Benz AG

Instead of making the battery larger and heavier, engineers worked on increasing its energy density. The battery takes up 50% less space and weighs 30% less than batteries with similar capacity.

The car also features solar panels across the roof that can provide up to 25 extra kilometers of range, or about 15 miles, under ideal conditions.

A typical electric vehicle uses two-thirds of its battery cutting through the air, so to help reduce that energy use, the VISION EQXX is designed with a smaller front face, meaning there's less air resistance, and a narrower rear wheel track that allows air to flow more efficiently.

Mercedes is just one of many automakers, including Ford and General Motors, planning a major push toward electric. By 2025, customers will be able to choose an "all-electric alternative" for every model they make, and within the decade, Mercedes is planning to go all-electric.

Tien Le is an intern on NPR's News Desk.

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