This Mind-Boggling Concept Car Wouldn't Be Possible Without The Movie Avatar

James Cameron's Avatar franchise is well known for not only being one of the highest-grossing movies ever made, but it's also notable for advancing visual effects technology in filmmaking. When the first Avatar movie came out in 2009, the Marvel Cinematic Universe was still in its infancy and hadn't quite become the box office juggernaut it is today. James Cameron and the VFX team behind the movie used groundbreaking special effects to tell a compelling story that will likely continue with the new installment, "Avatar: The Way of Water", when it releases this month.

Much like Avatar, the automaker Mercedes-Benz is famous for making historic strides in its field of automotive technology. Mercedes was one of the first automakers to exist and has been consistently churning out automotive hits for well over a century. The German automaker took Avatar's environmentally conscious message and unique visual flair to heart when it created its newest concept car: the VISION AVTR.

Straight from Pandora

On the outside, the AVTR looks truly alien from whatever angle you look at it. It's covered in all manner of visual cues that make the car look more like it rolled out of Pandora and not a vehicle styling studio in Germany.

The concept car isn't coincidentally alien looking. From the ground up, the entire vehicle's entire design language was informed by the Avatar movies. The VISION AVTR is an EV concept car meant to capture the unearthly feel of Pandora from the Avatar universe and show that the brand is committed to an EV future. With the AVTR spearheading the brand's design cues and general philosophical direction, Mercedes wants to have an EV-only fleet by 2030, an incredibly ambitious move. The vehicle was first revealed to the public at CES in 2020.

Mercedes says in a press release: "The name of the groundbreaking concept vehicle stands not only for the close collaboration in developing the show car together with the AVATAR team but also for ADVANCED VEHICLE TRANSFORMATION. This concept vehicle embodies the vision of Mercedes-Benz designers, engineers, and trend researchers for mobility in the distant future."

A responsibly sourced alien design

Like many other optimistic future-focused concept vehicles, the AVTR features an interior chock full of recycled materials including Karuun, a material made out of naturally growing rattan plant fibers. The AVTR's seats are swathed in recycled vegan leather and even the battery is sustainably sourced, and Mercedes claims it is compostable and environmentally friendly. That's a far cry from the lithium-filled batteries that power EV cars today and can potentially do a number on the environment in the future. The automaker says that the battery uses graphene compounds and no rare earth materials.

Mercedes also notes that the AVTR doesn't have a steering wheel. It's not a yoke, like what a Tesla and some other EVs would have. it's something different entirely. It's a "multifunctional control element." The control scheme recognizes the driver by their unique biometrics and allows the user to control the interior of the vehicle just by moving their hand. 

A look at future EV technology

Mercedes wanted the visual lines of the exterior and interior of the vehicle to flow into one cohesive object. The automaker says "AVTR combines the design disciplines interior, exterior, and UX on an unprecedented scale. The distinctive inside-out design structure connects inside and outside to an emotional entity and it was inspired by several creatures from the movie AVATAR."

The "outside" of the car features 33 of what Mercedes calls "bionic" flaps. The AVTR can use those flaps to relay messages both to the driver and the outside. They are almost like an extremely advanced set of turn signals. The automaker and designers made the flaps look reptilian, right in line with the general organic and natural theme of the concept car. 

Mechanically, the AVTR is a little more planted in what most people would recognize on earth. It features four-wheel independent steering thanks to its four individual EV motors in the wheels. That allows it to "crab walk," much like General Motors' Ultium-platform-based Hummer EV and upcoming GMC Sierra EV. Every other aspect of the vehicle aside from the EV drivetrain and three-pointed star on the front is quite unlike every other car and concept Mercedes has ever made. 

It's an unfortunate reality that most concept cars like the AVTR won't see any real production. But the AVTR will instead be used to inform Mercedes' future design and production and possibly help the brand and other brands achieve a more sustainable production model as production slowly but surely shifts to fully electric lineups.