Interiors for electric vehicles

The interior of electric vehicles is being adapted for all electric drive models. An interview with Hartmut Sinkwitz, Head of Interior Design at Daimler.

Electromobility not only demands engineers to think in new ways; exterior and interior designers must also find ways to reapproach their work. The switch from the familiar petrol and diesel engines to electric assemblies means a change in automobile design. At Mercedes-Benz, a new electric aesthetic has been defined, which will permeate the design language and will be a fundamental part of all electric vehicles, spanning various segments.

The first example is the EQ electric SUV, a concept car presented at the Paris motor show last year. The car is now in the production stage and will be on the market in two years' time. Just like more than 130 years ago: When the shapes of the horse-drawn carriages, were radically altered due to the development of a new type of drive technology, - today an innovative design language is being defined once again, which will characterize the mobility of the future.

An individual, cool, futuristic electric style that stays true to the typical Mercedes-Benz values

It is not only the exterior of the cars that will follow the new design language. The electric aesthetic will also define how interior spaces are conceived. "When creating sketches, we aim to create an individual, cool, futuristic electric style that stays true to the typical Mercedes-Benz values," explains Hartmut Sinkwitz, Head of Interior Design. "The interior is shaped by our design philosophy of “sensual clarity,” so it is both avant-garde and functional. The result is a very cool look, which is also highly emotional."

This idea is especially apparent with the design of the instrument panel, which, according to Sinkwitz, "is designed as a wing profile and is composed of one piece. Its asymmetric design was conceived with the driver in mind." Until now, the elegance of the Mercedes-Benz models was characterized by the division of the instrument panel into an upper and a lower section. With the electric drive models, other design elements will become more prominent in the future

Our goal is to always provide our customers with the most luxurious interior experience possible. Of course that applies to our electric vehicle families as well.

Hartmut Sinkwitz, Head of Interior Design

Despite the progressive, modern design – exemplified by the EQ study – the future interior of the electric vehicle models will follow traditional Mercedes values. Finally, putting the new electric aesthetics into practice will not change the fundamental philosophy of the Mercedes-Benz design department: "We see ourselves as a brand that embodies modern luxury and represents more than just the premium sector. Our goal is to always provide our customers with the most luxurious interior experience possible. Of course that applies to our electric vehicle families as well," says Hartmut Sinkwitz about the role of interior design.

Electromobility not only demands engineers to think in new ways; exterior and interior designers must also find ways to reapproach their work.

Despite the progressive, modern design – exemplified by the EQ study – the future interior of the electric vehicle models will follow traditional Mercedes values. Finally, putting the new electric aesthetics into practice will not change the fundamental philosophy of the Mercedes-Benz design department: "We see ourselves as a brand that embodies modern luxury and represents more than just the premium sector. Our goal is to always provide our customers with the most luxurious interior experience possible. Of course that applies to our electric vehicle families as well," says Hartmut Sinkwitz about the role of interior design.

Classic materials in a modern look

The selected materials will also reflect the shift to electromobility. For example, a new colour combination with a more technical feel will be paired, with the current aluminium finish.

At the same time "we want to continue to offer our customers the possibility to choose from a range of classic materials, such as metal, leather and wood, which create a feeling of comfort and luxury, though they will be adapted to suit our new design language." In addition, plastic surfaces will be used, though they will have a more technoid feel, as part of the electro aesthetic. "In the case of soft laminated surfaces," says Sinkwitz, "we will be taking a new path; we developed a new type of surface that suits the technically modern character of the vehicle."

Sinkwitz explains the new colour effects of the electric vehicles as follows: "We are creating progressive aesthetics and a new interior experience, but at the same time we are building a bridge to the classic values of a Mercedes-Benz interior."

Design is not predictable.

Hartmut Sinkwitz

"In any case, our attitude is that design is not predictable," explains Sinkwitz. The design team, with studios in Sindelfingen, Beijing, Como, Carlsbad and Sunnyvale, expects other segments to draw on the electro aesthetics and intends to continue to surprise us with their ideas.

"We are creating completely new experiences for our customers," says Sinkwitz, "through an interplay between individual design concepts and a more sleek design language." The altered acoustic situation will contribute to these changes. The electric vehicles will feature interior spaces with an unprecedented level of calm, which in turn will lead "to a clearer, tidier, and calmer design concept", where the eye can relax and at the same time discover interesting details. “To this end, our goal is to ensure that the passengers never get bored."

We want to ensure that passengers never get bored.

Hartmut Sinkwitz

And how will the new aesthetic be applied to future generations of car models? A total of 20 new Mercedes-Benz electric models will enter the market in the coming years. "We're going to give the compact models a more youthful feel. With the largest vehicles we will focus on achieving the highest level of quality possible," Sinkwitz describes the design strategy for the future. And: "In all aspects of design, we aim to reinforce the potential and the expression of electro aesthetics."

In coming years, car models that are both electric and self-driving will present a particular challenge for designers. "We will then have the freedom to completely redesign spaces and create an open communication area for numerous people. There might even be a relaxing, lounge-like seating landscape. In this living area, also known as the 'third place', people can perform various tasks from other parts of their lives like working or calling friends. The rear compartment will become more important. Also, the interior of the future will feature more modular elements" Hartmut Sinkwitz prophesizes. "In any case, we may expect major challenges and new degrees of freedom, and I'm looking forward to them already."

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