AMG boss Tobias Moers at the Frankfurt Motor Show all about the Project One. He’s as excited about it as you are.
Mercedes-AMG boss Tobias Moers doesn’t want to reveal too many details about the Project One hypercar. That’s partly because it’s still in development, but it’s also because Mercedes considers a lot of the Project One’s tech its intellectual property. In other words, it doesn’t want Ferrari and Red Bull figuring out its secrets.
That proves that when Mercedes describes the Project One as being an F1 car for the street, it’s not just marketing hype. It’s totally accurate. By this point, you probably know that the Project One’s 1.6-liter internal combustion engine is the same as used in Mercedes current F1 car, but it’s not the only drivetrain component it shares with Lewis Hamilton’s single-seater. Its electric motors, its electrically spooled turbocharger, its batteries and their cooling system are all shared with the F1 car.
One electric motor, dubbed the MGU-K, is attached to the crankshaft via a planetary gearset and is able to harvest kinetic energy and deploy it. It makes around 160 hp (120 kW), spins to a ridiculous 50,000 RPM, which Moers notes is more than three times faster than a conventional electric motor.
The Project One’s engine also employs Mercedes’ ingenious “split turbo” system straight out of its F1 cars. Dubbed MGU-H, it splits the turbo’s exhaust and compressor turbines across the engine’s intake and exhaust, with a shaft driven by a 90kW electric motor connecting the two. That shaft can spin the compressor turbine to 100,000 RPM depending on load.
The MGU-H system allows AMG to do away with a traditional turbocharger wastegate—though it still uses a blowoff valve—because it can regulate boost pressure more precisely with the electric motor. All of this, AMG says, eliminates turbo lag entirely.
The Project One gets two more electric motors that aren’t found in Mercedes F1 cars, however. They’re the same as the 160-hp MGU-Ks connected to the crank, but they’re driving each front wheel individually. This electrically driven front-axle is bespoke to the Project One, and Moers confirms that we won’t see something else like it in a future AMG product.
We’ve seen electrically driven front-axles in cars like the Porsche 918 and Acura NSX, but Moers promises the Project One’s will be better. He told us that he experiences understeer in similar systems when you apply throttle in a corner, but the Project One won’t have it. Not that’ll be an oversteer-y drift machine. “It’s not an E63,” Moers told us.
These four electric motors both feed and are fed by a lithium-ion battery system that’s a development from the one in the old SLS AMG Electric Drive and Mercedes F1 cars. In the SLS, this system was designed to complete one lap of the Nürburgring without overheating.
These batteries still run quite a bit warmer than those in other cars, so the Project One utilizes a liquid cooling system straight out of Mercedes F1 car. The batteries offer 25 kilometers (around 15 miles) of all-electric driving range, but make no mistake, this system is designed for performance, not eco-friendliness.
Plugging the Project One into a wall outlet will give it a full charge, and thus maximum performance, but Moers says it’ll also offer a performance mode that keeps the battery charged. In this mode you can turn consistently fast, if not quite record-setting lap times with no issue.
The Project One gets some race-car-inspired components that aren’t actually from F1 too. Its gearbox, an eight-speed single-clutch automated manual built by XTrac, is unique to the car. AMG eschewed a dual-clutch because it was too heavy, and it couldn’t handle the internal combustion engine’s 11,000 rpm capability. But if you’re worried about the low-speed weirdness that partially defined older single-clutch automated manuals, don’t be. Torque fill from the electric motors helps with around-town maneuvering.
The Project One’s suspension system is inspired by that of an LMP1 race car, and it’s utterly fascinating. At each axle, there are two pushrod coilovers mounted inboard, but just one controls the movements of both wheels, while the other manages body roll. The damper stiffness is electrically adjustable depending on your selected drive mode.
What’s amazing is that Moers predicts that much of this technology will actually make its way to regular production cars. Which is great, considering only 275 lucky customers will get their hands on a Project One.
“I think everything in the Project One, in future perspective, is capable for standard street-legal cars,” Moers said. “Project One shows that F1 gives you a clear indication of future componentry in a street car. Especially on the powertrain side.”
But Moers and everyone else at AMG still have their work cut out for them before Project One customer deliveries begin in 2019. Interestingly, AMG built a mule out of a IMSA DPi-like chassis to test the engine, but real prototypes will hit the track before the end of this year.
AMG’s biggest challenges are mitigating weight and NVH, and also making sure the Project One meets appropriate emission standards. But the result should be well worth the effort.
Moers is as excited about the Project One as you’d hope he’d be. His eyes lit up when he talked about the F1 team’s UK engine factory, for example. Given this, we’ve got good reason to expect that the production-spec Project One will be the game-changer this concept promises it’ll be.
Real-life F1 tech for the road. What a world we live in.