The last time Mercedes raced at Le Mans, it ended with one of its CLR-GT1 race cars upside down in the local scenery having somersaulted backwards three times 50ft in the air. It hasn’t returned since.
But what would happen if Merc did go back to Le Mans? Say, in… 2030? We have a potential answer: a radical shape-shifting LMP1 car that’s powered by air, made of graphene and can 3D print its own tyres.
It’s called the Mercedes-Benz DTW. A potty fantastical concoction from the mind of digital pensmith Martin Chatelier, a design student from Sevres, France. Yes, it’s very much not real.
Pretty radical looking, isn’t it? If you think the looks are wild, you’re going to lose your mind when you hear about the technology onboard. It’s stuff of sci-fi and potentially too much cider. But cool nonetheless.
See, the DTW doesn’t have an engine. Instead, it’s powered by two electric motors that are charged by a Tesla Turbine using compressed air stored in two high-capacity tanks hidden in the racer’s flanks. It’s safe to say Tesla turbines – bladeless centripetal flow turbines patented by Nikola Tesla way back in 1913 – aren’t traditionally used for powering cars, but that doesn’t matter, as this is only a render that exists in Photoshop.
There’s also active aerodynamics. A system with many, many uses. Like refilling those tanks with air to be compressed, acting as an airbrake and compacting to improve VMAX on the Mulsanne straight. When braking, four active panels open to create a huge land anchor that forces air into intakes while also acting as a hefty air brake like the old 1950s Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR.
Made entirely out of graphene – the newfangled carbon-based substance that’s 200 times stronger than steel and a million times thinner than human hair – it’s incredibly light. But one of graphene’s other useful characteristics – transparency – means the cockpit can be a panoramic, but incredibly safe, cell.
If those technologies don’t seem far-fetched enough for you, we come to the pièce de résistance: the on-the-fly 3D printed tyres.
See, if this render is a soothsayer into the future, we’ll never need to go to Kwik Fit for a tyre change. Instead, we’ll have small 3D printers behind each tyre that’ll spray rubbery gum onto the tyre to give it a fresh set of boots. Said gum is stored in tanks positioned at the side of the car, meaning you can have a few different compounds stored, so you can print tyres as weather conditions change.
It’s crazy for sure. But if this is what the future looks like, we’re all in.