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From electrified to electrifying, Canada’s on the inside track for future Benzes

FRANKFURT INTERNATIONAL MOTOR SHOW

The future is electrified

The Mercedes AMG Project One car, which has the same powertrain as its F1 W08 race car, has 1,000 horsepower.

The Mercedes-AMG Project ONE hypercar pairs power with sustainability

The world got its first glimpse of the Mercedes-AMG Project ONE show car at the Frankfurt auto show. Yet the entire production run of 275 copies had been effectively sold out.

That's how it is in the 0.001 per cent of the auto market, where carefully vetted prospective buyers of new $1-million-plus hypercars get the inside scoop – and may be allowed to put down deposits – long before the general public has a clue.

The Project ONE will carry a one-world price of $3.3-million (plus local taxes in individual markets). When 275 have been built, it's done. It's not yet known how many will be allocated to Canada, but we'll likely get at least our fair share, as Canada is historically one of AMG's top markets.

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The Project ONE is a savagely powerful hypercar, introduced demonstratively in the midst a 2017 Frankfurt auto show otherwise preoccupied with sustainability and autonomous driving. The "ONE" lifts its powertrain directly from the current Mercedes W08 Formula 1 race car; it was driven on stage by factory Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton, who's currently leading the world championship.

F1 driver Lewis Hamilton presents a Mercedes AMG Project One car at the Frankfurt Motor Show on Sept. 12, 2017.

Yet even bragging more than 1,000 horsepower, the Project ONE strives to pair a socially responsible yin with its 350-plus-km/h-top-speed yang. Like all current F1 cars, the racer has a hybrid powertrain. And "the future of AMG also lies in hybridization and electrification," said Daimler CEO Dr. Dieter Zetsche.

Consider the full name of the F1 car: Mercedes AMG F1 W08 EQ Power+.

No surprise to see "AMG" there; it's Mercedes' high-performance division. But "EQ"?

That's the auto maker's new electric-mobility brand. Both get billing in the F1 car's name.

Stressing that point, the Project ONE shared the reveal limelight with the smart vision EQ fortwo concept – a vision of the future of smart's tiny city car that could not be a starker contrast.

Zetsche also announced that in the future, smart will be exclusively an electric-car brand (that's already started in Canada, where only the electric version of the current fortwo remains). Described as the future of car sharing, the smart vision EQ takes the city-car concept not just to the next, but arguably the ultimate level.

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It's electric, of course, capable of wireless inductive recharging.

And it's fully autonomous, so much so that there's no steering wheel or pedals. It can drive itself with no occupants, whether to pick up its next ride, make deliveries overnight while most human users are sleeping, or take itself to the nearest station for an autonomous recharge.

A man pushes an electric Smart concept car that broke down at the Mercedes-Benz news conference at the 2017 Frankfurt Auto Show.

But you'll never be able to buy one; the cars will belong to smart's Car2Go car-sharing scheme, which already has 26 million members worldwide. With vision EQ users able to share rides with strangers, and the cars constantly in use, the EQ fleet could provide current levels of Car2Go usage with half as many cars on the road, Zetsche says.

When parked, their glass side doors can become temporary billboards; and of course they're "connected," greeting you by name when interfaced through your smartphone.

Smart isn't citing an output for the EQ's electric motor, but something close to the current ED's 60 kW seems likely. Meanwhile the Project ONE combines a 500-kW-plus 1.6-litre V-6 gas engine with an electric turbocharger, plus three electric motors totalling 360 kW (450 kW if you include the one on the turbo, which can sometimes also help drive the car).

Considering that a kW is equivalent to approximately 1.3 horsepower, that's quite a lot. Smart EQ or Project ONE, neither the yin nor the yang of Mercedes-Benz's hyper-diverse electrified future is ready for prime time tomorrow.

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Production of Project ONE hasn't even started yet. Ditto the fully autonomous smart EQ, which also still pends suitable infrastructure and regulatory framework. Still, nobody can say Mercedes-Benz isn't facing the future on all fronts.

The writer was a guest of the auto maker. Content was not subject to approval.

Shopping for a new car? Check out the new Globe Drive Build and Price Tool to see the latest discounts, rebates and rates on new cars, trucks and SUVs. Click here to get your price.

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