At this month’s Frankfurt Motor Show, Mercedes-Benz revealed the Concept IAA, which is a plug-in hybrid car with a 279 HP (205 kW) engine that can take it up to 155 MPH. The “IAA” stands for Intelligent Aerodynamic Automobile (but we imagine it’s a pun since the Frankfurt Motor Show is also abbreviated IAA). Just another “intelligent” or “smart” car, right?
Wrong. The Concept IAA is unique because it adjusts its aerodynamic properties. It has an “aerodynamic mode” and a “design mode.” In the former mode, its electric-mode range is a bit higher at 41 miles (CO2 emissions are 28 grams/km), and in the latter, it is 38.5 miles (CO2 emissions are 31.2 grams/km). This isn’t an enormous difference, but Mercedes-Benz noted that the benefits of aerodynamic mode would be clearer in real-world situations (in this case, at higher speeds than NEDC fuel efficiency testing is done).
This raises the question: Why would an automobile manufacturer want to switch to and from an aerodynamic shape? The additional mechanical parts required for this couldn’t possibly help where reliability is concerned.
A potential reason is that aerodynamics is not the highest priority of consumers or manufacturers. People fuss about how cars look, and the most aerodynamic shapes aren’t pretty to many people’s eyes. So, maybe the solution to this problem is to make vehicles aesthetically pleasing while at a stop, or at low speeds, and aerodynamic when it matters most — at higher speeds.
A Green Car Congress article said:
The study switches automatically from a four-door coupé with a fascinating design to an aerodynamic world record breaker with a Cd figure of 0.19 when the vehicle reaches a speed of 80 km/h (50 mph), at which point numerous aerodynamics measures alter the shape of the vehicle. At the rear end, eight segments deploy, extending the length of the car by up to 390 mm; front flaps in the front bumper extend outwards by 25 mm and rearwards by 200 mm, improving airflow around the front end and the front wheel arches; the active wheel rims change their cupping from 50 mm to zero; and the fin in the front bumper retracts by 60 mm to improve flow along the underbody.
Finally, the Concept IAA PHEV (a favorite category for Mercedes these days) is equipped with sensors and modules for autonomous driving and communication. This all sounds very futuristic, but what sounds futuristic now might just be another standard feature later!