Few brands are as synonymous with luxury and performance as German car manufacturer, Mercedes-Benz, who are known for mechanical masterpieces such as the Maybach and the Gullwing coupe. Cars like these have changed the way we look at luxury vehicles, but the brand’s commitment to automotive development goes far beyond luxury on the road, starting at the pinnacle of motor racing, Formula One.
Mercedes-AMG F1 has become the dominant force in F1 since rejoining the sport. Now one of the most successful teams in recent history, Mercedes-AMG has achieved consecutive Drivers' and Constructors' Championships from 2014 to 2019, breaking Ferrari’s record of five consecutive championships. While these impressive results exhibit the brand’s commitment to automotive excellence on the racetrack, what is less known is Mercedes-AMG’s passion to influence the future of sustainability in road cars, through their incredible technological advancements and consistent F1 performance.
It is Mercedes-AMG’s innovation in Formula One that has resulted in important improvements to engine efficiency. Developed since their introduction in 2014, Mercedes’s advanced hybrid powertrains now run in excess of 50% brake thermal efficiency. “An engine burns fuel, and most engines will only convert around 30-35% of the available energy into useful work or power. With our power unit, we’ve managed to develop it to more than 50% thermal efficiency, which means more than half of the available energy in the fuel is being used to do useful work, and in fact we’re getting more useful work than we are waste energy, for the first time,” says Owen Jones, Head of Performance & Controls, Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains.
Also competing in Formula E, the brand sees it as a complementary platform to F1. Engineers from both teams work side-by-side on hybrid and electric powertrains, sharing their learning for maximum advancement. “Formula E is a series that allows us to demonstrate the potential of our battery electric technology under the Mercedes-Benz EQ brand and it was fantastic to see the team take their debut win in the final race of the season, with a one-two finish in Berlin,” says Bradley Lord, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Communications Director.
When asked what drives Mercedes’s commitment to sustainability, Lord shares, “Our passion for sustainability is driven by the knowledge that it is our duty to act – and that we can be part of developing advanced technologies for the mobility of the future. Every business has a duty to minimize its environmental impact, and this is something we take seriously in Formula One and in our daily operations. Furthermore, F1 is a proving ground for developing advanced technologies, such as the advanced hybrid powertrains that we have run since 2014. On their introduction, these immediately reduced the fuel consumption of each F1 car by one third, and have continued to develop in efficiency since then, with efficiency driving performance.”
British racing driver, Lewis Hamilton, who took the first Formula One hybrid win in 2009, has won five out of six modern-era World Championships for the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team. He says, “This is the perfect test bench for pushing technology and developments. It really is the best lab you could possibly have. I like to think we have played a serious role in what you see in today’s cars, the technology that’s now in Formula E, and the technology that’s now in our road cars. I think we were really at the forefront of pushing that technology and we still are. As we continue to push forwards, it will improve for the road cars.”
Bradley says that the ultimate goal is “For Mercedes F1 to halve our CO2 footprint by the end of 2022. We will be net-zero from 2020, through a combination of CO2 reductions and gold-standard offsetting, and we aspire to achieve 3* environmental accreditation from the FIA in this regard. Ultimately, our goal is to become the benchmark for sustainable performance in our industry.”
Currently working on a project to put a version of their F1 engine into a road car, development testing of the Mercedes-AMG One is ongoing. Lord admits it has been a challenging process to adapt a Formula One power unit to road production requirements and adds, “The car is undergoing a rigorous testing program at the moment and the results will be spectacular when it is revealed for the first time, with an advanced hybrid powertrain at its very heart.”