We'd thought we were aware of all the details that make up the extraordinary SLS AMG E-Cell, but when Mercedes-Benz revealed the E-Cell's unique aluminum body shell hanging from the ceiling at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show, a bit of never-before-seen black stood out.

According to M-B, that piece is one of the E-Cell's key elements. It's a transmission tunnel made entirely of lightweight carbon-fiber composite that is structurally integrated into the vehicle's aluminum body shell and bonded to it. M-B says the stiff carbon fiber "spine" reduces weight while also serving as a structural, one-piece housing for the gullwing's battery modules.

Here's a SLS AMG E-Cell refresher: the gullwinged electric uses four motor that pump out a combined 525 horsepower and 649 pound-feet of torque. The E-Cell dashes from 0 to 60 miles per hour in a mere 3.7 seconds and, come 2013, the SLS AMG E-Cell will launch in limited quantities. Follow the jump for more details on the E-Cell's tricked-out carbon spine.
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AMG Lightweight Performance: SLS AMG E-CELL gets carbon-fibre spine

Sep 13, 2011

The SLS AMG E-CELL body shell being shown by Mercedes-Benz AMG at the IAA 2011 is one trailblazing outcome of its ambitious "AMG Lightweight Performance" design strategy. Its key element is a transmission tunnel made out of lightweight carbon-fibre composite material (CFRP), which is structurally integrated into the aluminium body shell and firmly bonded with it. The high-strength and stiff CFRP component helps to reduce weight, while also serving as a monocoque housing for the battery modules.

The carbon-fibre battery monocoque in the SLS AMG E-CELL forms an integral part of the body shell and acts as the vehicle's "spine". The advantages of carbon composite materials were specifically exploited by the AMG engineers in its design. These include their high strength, which makes it possible to create extremely rigid structures in terms of torsion and bending, excellent crash performance and low weight. CFRP components are up to 50 percent lighter than comparable steel ones, yet retain the same level of stability. Compared with aluminium, the weight saving is still around 30 percent, while the material is considerably thinner. The advantages in terms of weight achieved through the carbon-fibre battery monocoque are reflected in the agility of the SLS AMG E-CELL and, in conjunction with the highly innovative wheel-selective four-wheel drive system, ensure true driving enjoyment.

The carbon-fibre battery monocoque is, in addition, conceived as a "zero intrusion cell" in order to meet the very highest expectations in terms of crash safety. It protects the battery modules inside the vehicle from deformation or damage in the event of a crash.

Tobias Moers, Member of the Board of Management of Mercedes-AMG GmbH, responsible for overall vehicle development: "AMG Lightweight Performance is the term we use at AMG to encompass all the different technologies involved in lightweight construction. The use of carbon makes vehicles not only lighter, but even more efficient and agile – in motorsports and on the streets. This is especially important for sports cars."

The basis for CFRP construction is provided by fine carbon fibres, ten times thinner than a human hair. A length of this innovative fibre reaching from here to the moon would weigh a mere 25 grams. Between 1000 and 24,000 of these fibres are used to form individual strands. Machines then weave and sew them into fibre mats several layers thick, which can be moulded into three-dimensional shapes. When injected with liquid synthetic resin, this hardens to give the desired structure its final shape and stability.

Through their experience with the SLR, the vehicles in the AMG Black Series and in motorsport, Mercedes-Benz and AMG have accumulated more than 10 years of expertise in working with carbon-fibre materials. AMG currently makes the propshaft for the SLS AMG, for example, in carbon-fibre. On the SLS Roadster, the supporting structure for the draught-stop is made as standard as a carbon sandwich structure. This component, with extremely short cycle times in an industrially oriented manufacturing process, already demonstrates what will be possible in the future.
CFRP components also play an important role in Mercedes-Benz and AMG's lightweight design strategy for the future. In conformity with the motto "the right material, in the right place, the proportion of high-strength steels, aluminium and fibre-reinforced plastics is set to increase significantly in the future. The body shell weight of all Mercedes-Benz vehicles should fall by ten percent compared with their predecessors.

Just how seriously Mercedes-Benz and its high-performance arm AMG are treating the issue of lightweight design as an important factor along the road to sustainable mobility, is demonstrated by the full-aluminium body shell of the SLS AMG. With it, the super sports model shows the way for future model ranges.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 7 Comments
      Dan Frederiksen
      • 3 Years Ago
      they sure make it look difficult
        • 5 Months Ago
        @Dan Frederiksen
        As it turns out, actually making things is harder that talking about it.
          • 5 Months Ago
          The point is that it looks hard because it is hard. You see I was making that point while simultaneously making fun of you for repeatedly saying you could do so much better if only the world would recognize your genius.
          Dan Frederiksen
          • 5 Months Ago
          as it turns out that's a non sequitur
          Dan Frederiksen
          • 5 Months Ago
          I know what you meant. and you were wrong. it doesn't have to be that hard
      Arun Murali
      • 5 Months Ago
      Its quite interesting to see how chassis of cars evolve over period. We started with simple wooden H Chassis. Then we had brazing and metal inserts, then metal chassis. Now after a century of development we are down to T Carbon Fibre Chassis and a 100 kg supporting aluminium members. I would have thought that they would still use aluminium chassis and Carbon Fibre members to hold the car structurally rigid. After all its a sport car. With its current use, it looks like it reduces quite a lot of weight but all that is gained back by many aluminum members used to rigidify the structure.
      • 3 Years Ago
      While I like the look of the whole aluminium body shell, I'd prefer to have it the other way around (metal spine and plastic body). Somehow I don't feel plastic is quite enough to be used for structural spine, for outer shell plastic isn't that much of a concern other than the crumple zone. Perhaps one day they can use full carbon fiber instead of CFRP once production ramps up and prices drop.