Mercedes' new Beijing R&D center has produced one of its first concept cars, and it's quite ambitious. It's called the G-Code, and it's a very sleek, smaller than a GLA suicide-rear-door hydrogen-burning vision of the future covered in power-generating 'multi-voltaic' paint.

Clearly, the most attention-grabbing thing about the car is the 'multi-voltaic' paint, which acts as both a solar panel coating the entire car, and

is also charged electrostatically by the relative wind or by the natural wind when the vehicle is stationary

...which does sound pretty cool. The electricity captured via either the sun or wind by this paint is used to produce hydrogen for the front-mounted hydrogen-burning ICE engine, and to feed batteries which power the rear-mounted electric motor.

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It's a very cool concept, but, just to be clear, I think concept is all this is at the moment. Concept cars don't have to actually work, of course — they're meant to be inspirational showcases for future technologies. Still, reading some stories, it can seem like this paint actually works. Which I don't think it does. Yet.

The concept is there, certainly. As recently as last year researchers had developed photovoltaic paint that achieved put o a 7% efficiency. That may not sound like much, but when you consider that this is something that could be sprayed on a surface instead of built out into a big, rigid panel, it's remarkable. These quantum-dot photovoltaic colloidally-stable inks are still quite experimental, but it's certainly possible we'll see these viable in the years to come.

I'm not sure what to make of the electrostatic wind part, but who knows? In fact, I'm so sure this paint is just a non-working concept now that I'm willing to let the Benz people connect my genitals to the paint's electrical output at the LA show. If I'm wrong, I should get a jolt that will force me to treat their concepts with more respect in the future. If I'm right, I've dropped my pants at the Mercedes booth, which probably would have happened anyway.

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The other really attention-grabbing thing about the G-Code concept is that grille. Well, really that not-grille, since it's not so much a grille as a brand identifier with an integrated display. And what's that display supposed to remind you of? The USS Enterprise's warp drive.

Seriously. Here's what Mercedes' PR says about it:

Who hasn't heard of the legendary Starship Enterprise from the Star Trek TV series and the numerous feature films? One feature which has always been the centre of attention is the warp main drive in the lower drive pod with holographic, most often blue-illuminated pulsating opening. The designers have created a similarly spacey front for the G-Code. In place of a conventional louvred grille, the central trademark star and the two chrome louvres in the radiator are surrounded by a continuous display. The engine is cooled by means of innovative air deflection via apertures in the side and at the bottom of the front. The inspired display visualises the current operating mode of the G‑Code with a complex and multi-layered star matrix:

  • When the G-Code is parked, it signals the current rest mode with a softly pulsating blue light.
  • In all-electric HYBRID eDrive mode, the digital miniature stars in the radiator grille light up in blue and seem to move from the edge of the display towards the centre. It creates the visual impression of an imaginary permanently opening tunnel in the vehicle front.
  • In the mixed HYBRID eco mode, the direction of movement of the miniature stars remains the same, but the colour changes to a purple hue.
  • In HYBRID sport mode on the other hand, the colour changes to a vivid red and the direction of movement of the miniature stars is reversed. Now it creates the impression of the G-Code permanently transporting imaginary energy to the outside.

Now, if I can get really geeky here for a moment, I think what they're actually referring to isn't the warp drive at all, but rather the "main deflector dish." Sometimes called the "navigational deflector," this is the thing on the ship that supposedly sweeps away all the tiny particles in space so the Picard and company doesn't get perforated like a cheese from Bern.

So, sure, I get what you're going for Benz, but would it kill you to have a real painful geek on staff? Maybe. Anyway, I'm curious to see this thing in action — I'm all for more animated displays on cars.

Oh, and also, anything on a car that's described as

permanently transporting imaginary energy to the outside.

... can kindly go fuck itself.

We'll report on this more when we see it at the LA show, and you'll know by my screams just how real that 'multi-voltaic' paint is.