Lightweight Garage #24 Lightweight Construction Inspired By Nature @ Mercedes Benz Bionic Car

©Thomas Jundt, Case fish in natural environment, CC BY-NC 2.0

The Vehicle

The vehicle in question is the Bionic Car presented by Mercedes Benz Group AG (formerly Daimler AG) in 2005. The unconventional design is not coincidentally reminiscent of a trip to the aquarium. The idea behind the design of the vehicle comes from the boxfish. Requirements for the design were good properties in terms of aerodynamics, safety, passenger comfort (large interior) and environmental compatibility. Here, the boxfish scored with its angular appearance and yet very low drag coefficient.

The Technology

Specifically, the vehicle can be equipped with a cW value (flow resistance coefficient) of 0.19. The real model has a value of 0.06 in the wild. However, this value cannot be achieved due to other requirements. In concrete terms, the concept was tested on a 1:4 model and then transferred to a vehicle design suitable for everyday use. The Mercedes CLA currently leads the series segment with a cW value of 0.22, but has a radically flat and streamlined design, whereas the Bionic Car is more in line with the contours of an SUV or van and can therefore offer considerably more comfort for the occupants.

Mercedes-Benz bionic car
©Ryan Somma, Exhibition of body design, body shell space frame and 1:4 aerodynamics model, CC BY-SA 2.0

The Lightweighting Effect

But the Bionic Car is not just about aerodynamics. The entire concept is intended to be sustainable, which is why structural lightweight design concepts are also applied. Wall thicknesses are examined according to their load capacity and adjusted accordingly. Thus, sheet metal components are manufactured with different wall thicknesses to achieve an ideal mass distribution. The focus is also on an economical diesel engine concept in order to achieve an optimum range with low consumption together with the good aerodynamic properties and low weight.

The final figures are then effectively reflected in the fuel consumption, which in 2005 was 20%lower than the average for current production vehicles. The weight was even reduced by 30% due to the individual wall thickness adjustment.

In conclusion, this example shows us once again how efficiently evolution has worked and that it is only human demands for comfort, appearance and practicality that stand in the way of ideal lightweight construction and resource efficiency.

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