In case you don’t know what the Project ONE is, it is the latest creation from Mercedes-AMG. You’ll love it! If you don’t know what Mercedes-AMG is, you probably stumbled upon this website by accident.
Now, we will not talk about the speed at the top end, since that hasn’t been announced yet. However, it is not very likely that it’ll be faster than the Chiron which is aimed at breaking top speed records for street legal cars. We are talking about acceleration to 124 mph (200 km/h).
Why that much? Because hypercars made acceleration to 62 mph irrelevant. Aside from the sheer prestige on paper, you are not very likely to notice any kind of a difference between accelerations of 2.7 s and 2.8 s. If we are talking about driving joy – and on this website we are – accelerations past 100 are far more relevant nowadays.
Let’s give some basic info
The Bugatti Chiron, that we’ll use for this comparison, is one of the fastest production cars in the world. It is powered by an 8 l W16 with four turbos (yes, two bi-turbo V8s put together, loosely based on the famed VR6 tech) which produces 1,500 hp and 1,180 lb-ft of torque. It sprints to 124 mph in 6.5 seconds and to 186 mph in just 13.6 s. It packs a Haldex AWD system that helps keep traction and also improves acceleration, as does the lightweight carbon fiber body.
On the other hand, we have the Mercedes-AMG Project ONE which packs a 1.6 l V6 and four electric motors, only two of which actually power the wheels. Not many details have been revealed, but what we do know is that the total power output exceeds 1,000 hp. It is said to reach 124 mph in UNDER 6 seconds.
So, how the hell is a 1.6l-powered car faster than an 8l-powered one?
OK, we all know that the speed is not only in the power rating, but the difference is just so damn huge. Well, the Project ONE has a Formula 1 powertrain packed in a street legal car. The engine is stolen from the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula 1 racing car and it packs four camshafts and pneumatic valve springs. It produces more than 670 hp, although the exact figure hasn’t been specified.
The aim of the engineers in Formula 1 is to increase efficiency to the max in order to shave off milliseconds on the racetrack and aside from the famed AMG engineers, the powertrain was co-designed by Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains and Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport. As you might imagine, their input is not aimed at improving the sound system and headrest comfort.
One of the results of the engine efficiency improvements is that it revs to 11,000 rpm with ease.
Now let’s add the electric motors
There are four of them, but unlike other cars with that many motors, they do not power one wheel each. In fact, two of them power the front wheels which get about 160 hp each. These motors are also state of the art. For example, a very capable electric motor revs up to 20,000 rpm. These rev up to 50,000. The rear wheels are powered by the 1.6 l engine only.
The two remaining electric motors are mated to the engine and inside the turbo, respectively.
The one on the engine is connected to the crankshaft in order to ensure incredible response times. This engine actually responds faster than a naturally aspirated V8. You have probably noticed that when you are riding a bicycle that you need more energy to accelerate to a cruising speed than to maintain that speed. The electric motor helps the crankshaft reduce the acceleration loss by giving it an additional instant push. Using the bicycle analogy again, it would be as if you could turn the pedals at the desired cruising speed instantly.
The final electric motor is inside the turbocharger. If you’re not familiar with how regular turbos work, here’s a crash course in a few sentences that will also help you understand what the motor does.
As the exhaust gas leaves the engine it passes a turbine and causes it to turn. The more the gas, the faster it turns. That exhaust turbine is directly connected to another turbine and that second one is used to push the air into the engine and compress it in order for more oxygen to be pressed into the cylinder for more power. Basically, the exhaust gas makes one turbine turn, which in turn makes the other turbine turn, which in turn pushes more air into the engine and greatly improves performance. Brilliant!
Now, the biggest problem with turbo in general is that there is this thing called turbo lag. When you press the pedal to accelerate, the engine needs some time to rev up high enough to produce sufficient amounts of exhaust gas to make the turbine spool. In older turbo supercars this sudden extra push when the turbo spools up often caused wheelspin and even some serious crashes. The Porsche 930 Turbo is infamous for this reason alone. More modern tech reduced turbo lags with numerous elaborate solutions.
Well, the Project ONE goes about 10 steps further. The engineers separated the two turbines and put a shaft between them. The shaft is aided by the fourth, 90kW electric motor which keeps the turbine spool-ready at all times. The response is instant and, aside from eliminating the lag, it also makes the car noticeably faster.
Of course, the kind of stress these systems cause on the parts requires more special innovative solutions for suspension, wheels, brakes and gearbox. We can’t even begin to explain all of the benefits, since attention to detail is incredible. Just as an example, they went so far to add three ventilation slots on each wheel spoke in order to relieve excessive heat from the brakes.
All in all, engineers used all these features to remove even the slightest loss that physics burdens cars with. Each system is as resourceful as it can be. Even surplus exhaust heat is used to create electric energy for the motors.
The Project ONE is definitely the next evolution of hypercars. In comparison with the current top cars it is noticeably better and it makes some of them even seem outdated. Now, if the engineers made a 1.6 l hybrid the most advanced car at the moment by increasing the efficiency of its systems to the max, what the hell could they do with that W16 from the Chiron?