Mercedes-Benz Gives Early Look At Three Design Challenge Concepts

Kirill Ougarov
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Mercedes gave us a preview of the three concepts it would be entering in this year's Los Angeles Auto Show Design Challenge at its Advanced Design Center in Carlsbad, California. This year's LA Design Challenge demands a four-seat vehicle that weighs no more than 1000 pounds and Mercedes' designers came up with some decidedly unorthodox creations.

The Carlsbad-based design center was responsible for the Mercedes-Benz-badged concept, called the Biome, and of the three, it's the only one with a 1:1 scale model. The premise of the Biome is that its grown rather than manufactured -- stay with us here -- from a material called BioFibre, with the interior being grown from the DNA on the Mercedes star on the front and the exterior from the DNA on the star in the rear. The DNA encoded into each star will be custom-coded to fit the needs of the customer. If that's not too Avatar-meets-Blade-Runner for you, the wheels are grown separately out of individual seeds and the car is fueled by a concoction dubbed BioNectar4534 that's stored in the BioFibre Material. BUT THAT'S NOT ALL! At the end of its useful life as a car, the Biome can be composted or converted into building material. Eat your heart out, vinyl siding.

Eco-wackyness aside, the Biome looks not too much unlike the pod-style cars that are seemingly ubiquitous in modern sci-fi movies and is actually, dare I say, pretty cool looking.

The smart-badged creation, dubbed the 454, is a dune buggy-like vehicle that was penned at a center in Sindelfigen, Germany. The name comes from its weight of 454 kilograms, which equals 1000 pounds. The 454 is actually knitted by "smart granny robots" that use something called "weight watch technology." Carbon fiber is used for the tub and tires, the glass is made of recyclable plastic, and the removable roof is made out of a textile material. Power comes from two 15 kW electric motors powered by a lithium-ion battery. If you think this is off-the-wall, wait until you see the Tokyo-designed Maybach eRikscha.

As the name hints, the eRikscha was inspired by...rickshaws, particularly the luxury sort used in the past by Japanese nobility rather than the common transport version seen even to this day in countries like India. Essentially a giant pod carried by two giant rings that are driven by two 20 kW electric motors, the eRiskcha -- also called the Den-Riki-Sha or DRS -- is developed from a DNA cocoon.

Six other automakers are entering the Design Challenge and the winner will be announced tonight after the conclusion of the show's press days.

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