Get ready to have your concept of how a car is manufactured flipped upside-down and turned inside-out. Picture a production process that has plenty in common with agar jelly (used to culture organic materials in laboratories) and little in common with what we would normally think of as production-line automotive manufacturing. You are starting to get close to what the people at Mercedes-Benz have spawned with the BIOME – one of the most outlandish and ambitious concepts in this year's Los Angeles Design Challenge.
In short, the BIOME would be grown in a lab rather than built on a production line.
"As the inventor of the motor car, we wanted to illustrate the vision of the perfect vehicle of the future, which is created and functions in complete symbiosis with nature. The Mercedes-Benz BIOME is a natural technology hybrid, and forms part of our earth's ecosystem. It grows and thrives like the leaves on a tree" Hubert Lee, head of the Mercedes-Benz advanced design studios said.
This vision includes growing a material called BioFibre which would be lighter than metal or plastic, yet stronger than steel. The resulting car would weighs in at 875.5 lbs (around 394 kg). The entire vehicle would also be completely biodegradable.
“The interior of the BIOME grows from the DNA in the Mercedes star on the front of the vehicle, while the exterior grows from the star on the rear. To accommodate specific customer requirements, the Mercedes star is genetically engineered in each case, and the vehicle grows when the genetic code is combined with the seed capsule. The wheels are grown from four separate seeds,” Mercedes-Benz explained.
Once on the road the vehicle would run on "BioNectar4534" stored in the car's BioFibre, of which the only by-product is oxygen.
Wildly ambitious? Yes. Completely implausible? Maybe. But the whole point of the Design Challenge is to think outside the square ... the BIOME certainly does that.
A full-scale mock-up was on display at the Los Angeles Auto Show.
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