Mercedes-Benz Digital Expert Talk with Jochen Hermann
Mercedes-Benz India recently organised the first digital expert talk with Jochen Hermann, CTO, Mercedes-AMG GmbH, where journalists from various Indian media publications participated.
Question: What happens to your philosophy of one man, one engine?
Answer: In the current powertrain layout, we still have this combustion engine where we have this 'one man, one engine', it's a pure essential benefit of AMG. AMG customers love that 'one man, one engine'. And to be honest, we do not really have an answer at this point of time, what we can add to an electrified powertrain. But also, of course, we reached a lot of time thinking about what could it be? And also, if I would have an answer, I will not give it to you at this point of time. Because, as I said, people love that. And we think it's really something that makes an AMG, an AMG. And we will have to have an answer to that. But it's not be easy to come up with an answer.
Question: Do you think you can actually overcome the challenge of the synthesised sound? And what is the way forward for electric cars to make a sound more emotional?
Answer: Yes, I totally agree. That sound is something that people love if they talk about their AMG. But I think it's not only the sound itself, it's more also that emotional experience. If you ask somebody, what do you love about your AMG? A lot of people will say, Oh, it's the sound. Yes, maybe in the first perspective, it is the sound. But I think what is more behind that is that emotional part that you have when you drive an AMG or when you are in an AMG. It's not only the sound itself, you know, you have the V8. It's a holistic emotional experience. So even people say, Oh, it's the sound, I think it's more and that kind of more, that's what we are working on for fully electric cars.
We are working on 'one man, one engine' thing, what could it be for the electric future and also on specific sound experiences. It will be more than just sound. And we have very different approaches at this point of time for our future AMG electric architecture.
And what I think is you have to give to a customer, it's again, this holistic experience. But I think we will come up with an answer that gives you back that pure and fully emotional experience added with the advantage that in some situations, you don't want to hear any sound. But that's the second trickiest part that you have to deal with in the future of electrification.
Question: How is an electric AMG performance vehicle is going to create a bridge between the authentic driving pleasure and the performance and yet offer a range that you're expecting?
Answer: I agree, range is an important part for full electric vehicles. However, even in today's AMG with combustion engine, only people have learned that range is not one of the key strongest performance KPIs of an AMG, what you do is you go to the gas station, and you fill quickly, the gas into your tank again. So that's kind of the answer for the future of electric driven vehicles of AMG.
Because if you have a sports car on a fully electric drive train, you have to have a very high constant power level. And if you design that into a car, the other benefit is what you get, you have a high performance charging vehicle. So that's one answer to that range question. But again, we should not go underneath certain values of range. So there is a value that we cannot be under. So as a hygiene factor, we have to make sure that a certain range is always given to a sports car.
Active aerodynamic parts is something AMG is very strong at. And that's another electric performance level that you have to improve the efficiency. for example, on the aerodynamic drag for an electric vehicle. So there are several things that you have to put together to have a very efficient electric car that has to be very performance driven on a racetrack. So, active aerodynamic, quick charging, and you need a certain battery size to make sure that you are not under a certain value of range. But long range vehicles will probably not be the future for Mercedes AMGs, if people would love to have that they would rather go for a regular Mercedes.
Question: What can we expect from the AMG portfolio in the current year? And what has been the response been to the AMG GT 63 globally and India?
Answer: We are a company born on the racetrack, and I think that's a very important heritage that we have. And in the future, we can always fulfil that promise of having sports cars that can be driven on the racetrack. That means, we are not giving up combustion engines on the Mercedes AMG side, for example, our AMG SL 63 V8. And even with the newest regulation that will come up for combustion engines, we will make sure that our V8s will be able to fulfil the newest combustion regulations that are expected. Also, what we know from all the markets, for example, in Europe, they will have the EU 7, which will probably be close to the China 7 and to the latest, newest requirements for the US market. And that basically covers all the world's requirements. In Europe, after EU 7, there will be no EU 8. So, what we expect is if we are able to bring our V8 into the EU 7 future. In Europe, we will be able to sell the V8 engines as long as there is a market request. So we are not giving up that part of AMG.
We also have a very strong path where we offer fully electric vehicles. And the car we talked about today, for example, is something in between, which also helps us to make people familiar with an exciting electrified future. Because if you talk to a like hardcore petrol AMG fan today, people cannot imagine going electric. But as soon as people have driven, for example, the GT 63 S E Performance, they will get out of the car, saying Wow, that's the coolest AMG I've most powerful I've ever driven. People understand the story behind bringing Formula One technology into a car and we have features in that car that we did not have on a combustion-engine-only car. For us, this is also a path or a vehicle, literally speaking for our people and customers to going into the future and learning that electrification is just an additional performance legal that we have in the future.
And being on a racetrack if Lewis Hamilton or George Russell is driving, they have to make a decision, how do they deal with the energy in the battery. So that's another freedom and another thing to play with. And that we think is exciting for customers. And that's only possible if you have an electrified powertrain. So we really see this car also, as a transformeration part for the customers going into that electrified future, because sooner or later, you have to have fully electric cars and we think there's a strong market for fully electric sports cars.
Question: Can we expect the hybrid AMG is to have a larger battery which plays a role beyond just boost?
Answer: Yes, it's already more than a boost. It's an energy source for the electric motor, but we do a lot more with this electric motor than just boosting. The recuperation is very important and actually the technology of this battery is even more exaggerating and even more important, almost for the recuperation part. Because if you go into an electrified future, energy management is much more important than a combustion engine only. So not only as the software is important that you are able to deal with the energies that you are wasting while driving, but also regaining the energy is very important. And that's essentially why we go for that technology. So I really have to say, even in today's car, it's more than a boost.
Will batteries grow for P3 hybrid? Well, yes, because in our S Class and S 63, we will have a larger battery for another reason. Because for the electrified S Class, driving range is an appropriate performance index. For example, this car goes only 12km in electric mode because we didn't care about the electric range in that really high performance racetrack kind of car. While an S Class or S 63, the customer wants to have the top end luxury experience where we think like going on a further electric range is something we would give the customers the opportunity. But in a performance hybrid, the battery should be as small as possible. That's why we have decided on this size of battery, we think it's enough for a racetrack. It's enough to be a source or a battery with a capacity where you can put in energy while braking and getting it out again, once you are out of a corner and accelerating. So we did a lot of simulations and calculations and tried to put in the smallest battery as possible into that car. So saying, for a sports car, the battery should always be as small as possible.
Question: What is your view and the company's view on e-fuels? Because that could represent something important, interesting for AMG, where you can continue with a carbon neutral fuel and internal combustion.
Answer: I agree, the e-fuel is another opportunity to come to a more CO2 neutral car fleet. However, it's nothing we rely on. For us, it's important that we have these zero emission cars available for that market. To give you a general answer, yes, if there are any e-fuels available, of course, and I really think they have to be made such that you can use in existing engines, because the huge benefit of the e-fuels is also existing for cars. So if you would require certain changes on your combustion engine, I think, you will fail by supplying that kind of fuel to the market. Because the real benefit of the e-fuel is, you can reach cars that are already existing, which is, huge amount of cars. And we're not a fuel manufacturer, but if there's e-fuel available, yes, of course, we think there will be an additional opportunity for us to improve our CO2 footprint, would we rely on that? No way. We have to be independent of that.
Question: What is the realistic shelf life of this technology, considering EVs are going to be the inevitable future even for a brand new AMG? And how will you try to differentiate AMG electric car sports cars or supercars from the competition in the future?
What do you think is the ideal range that you would want to achieve with a sports car so you get enough driving fun? And what kind of idle charging time are you looking at, to ensure that someone can have a track day or weekend drive and come back without having to spend too much time charging?
Answer: We just introduced it, so there's no reason to take it off the market in a very short time. The feedback that we got so far from all the driving events, and from the first customers in certain markets, is very positive. Because it's an ultimate combination that answers all the questions of emotional V8 sound attached to an electric motor, which gives it an ultimate acceleration that only an electric motor can provide. So, I think, technology wise, top end what you can do on a hybrid. It's not only a transformation technology, but for now, I think it's a very good technology that we will want to sell as long as possible and as long as there is a request for it. With these new cars that we just put on the market, you can be sure there will be one or more cars that will use that kind of technology. And we also did it on the C 63 and C-Class where we combine that technology also with a four-cylinder hybrid. It's the only way to have ultimate performance and increase efficiency. Usually, if you increase performance, you usually decrease your efficiency. That's why it's one future performance striping, that we will keep in the market.
Since performance or acceleration is easy to achieve with electric cars, acceleration in the future, like zero to 100kmph, will probably not be in that performance index for a sports car because any car can do that. But if you look into an AMG today, or in the history of AMG, we started a kind of company putting a strong engine into an existing car. And over the last decades, we more and more improve the driving performance besides the powertrain itself. If you look into today's cars, the body weight, chassis, and suspension are optimised. Everything in that car so it's much more AMG that like the powertrain where we come from in the past and the more you go into that electrification I think the more and more this you know, driving behaviour of the car itself will be that thing.
I think with what we have done in the last 20 years, going into that driving dynamics, not only an acceleration, but everything, but a celebration, this is the key to success for the future. And with like several agents in a car, you can do much more even dynamic road driving experiences that you can do. So, there is no doubt that we can provide additional performance in a fully electric car.
Third question was about like future range. A certain range is necessary, otherwise the car will not be accepted. But to give an idea and as I said before, charging speed, I really think is another KPI. Because if you have a sports car charging is the second advantage you more or less get for free. So in the future in an AMG car, if you think about how long it takes to refuel a car with like regular fuel, I think we would love to have cars where you can charge within minutes and not within like half hours. So the car will not be the limit, it's rather the charging station itself, that could be the limit.
Question: This is your first V8 hybrid, and will it be considered a package that will go to many cars have it up playing with the battery size or position? And can we see more performance from the hybrid side. Because particularly this is first step and there is a long way to go with an electric boost. Right now, it is a maximum of 200hp now, you can clearly go above that.
Answer: That powertrain layout with a P3 hybrid, for the performance cars, this will be the layout, we will not change the battery or the positioning of anything. Because as I said, weight distribution, all that kind of thing, it's also very expensive to develop and manufacture these kind of powertrains. So you have to come to a certain modular approach for all your cars. That's the reason why if we have a V8 P3 hybrid, the layout of the powertrain will be the same. With one exception. As I said before, on the S class, we will have a larger battery. But if you look into C63 E Performance, we exchange the front engine with take a four-cylinder instead of eight-cylinder, but everything else, the gearbox, electric times, and even the battery will be again the same battery as we use here on V8 P3 hybrid. The volume we are selling is not so high. So we have to make sure that we have a modular approach, but also the benefit for the customers that they get the maximum performance in each level of the different cars that we sell.
Question: How did you manage to get the 50:50 weight distribution with the ICE and electric system?
Answer: To be honest, if you take the regular V8 without the electrified rear axle, the weight distribution is not as good as it is here, because the V8 engine is much heavier than a regular GT 63. The weight balance is not 50:50, it's like 54 or 53 on the front. But with this approach, where we put in additional weight, for example, a battery weighs around 90kg, the electric engine itself is probably around 100kg. With that, we really come to 50 per cent on each axle. But of course, the car is heavier, because we added that battery and that electric engine. On the other hand, we could put that weight onto the rear axle. That's why we have that balance. Another reason why we decided to go for that P3 hybrid instead of P2 hybrid, where the electric part would be also on the front.
Question: This is the car of the future is also the beginning of a new chapter. How well these cars are packaged in terms of comfort and conveniences and connected features?
Answer: In the past, if you have a sporty handling car, comfort was a lot of times a compromise that you have to take care of travesty under the drawback for that performance. But as we have shown with our newest car, for example, especially the SL, we came up with completely new systems. We got rid of the torsion bar of the vehicle and put in a hydraulic torsion unit, so you can have additional comfort on driving performance. I really think the suspension technology has improved a lot in the last couple of years and there's even more to come where we think we can give you a comfortable car.