There's not much about the new Mercedes-Benz EQS electric sedan's design that's very surprising. It's obviously inspired by the 2019 Vision EQS concept and it shares many design cues with the company's other EVs like the EQC and EQA, and Mercedes has been teasing the hell out of the EQS for weeks. But there's one thing that's been bugging me ever since I first noticed it in spy photos months ago: What the hell is that panel on the left front fender for?
It's not the charge port, as that's on the right rear fender, the same location as the S-Class' gas cap. It's not for some sort of driver-assist feature, as all of those sensors and parts are integrated into the grille panel and windshield. And it's not for a digital rear-view mirror camera system as it's just on one side -- and the EQS doesn't offer that as an option at all.
It turns out that little panel pops out to accept windshield washer fluid. Yup, the EQS has an external flap on only one side of the car just for refilling the windshield washer fluid. But there's a good reason for it to exist, strange as it is.
Unlike some other electric cars like the Tesla Model S and Porsche Taycan, the EQS doesn't have a "frunk" cargo area under the hood -- not even a tiny one. Instead, all that space is taken up by all sorts of wires and electronics, even in the base EQS450 model that just has a single electric motor at the rear. Even more room is occupied on versions of the EQS equipped with the intense HEPA air filter.
Being an electric car, the EQS doesn't really need things like oil or coolant, so washer fluid is the only reason why an owner might actually need to pop the hood. (No full-size Mercedes owner is doing their own maintenance anyway.) Moving the washer fluid port to the outside of the car means an EQS owner will never have to open the hood, although they'll be able to do so if they really want. The clamshell design of the hood also improves aerodynamics, helping the EQS achieve its record-setting 0.20 coefficient of drag.
The EQS isn't the first car to do something like this with the goal of better aerodynamics. The extraordinarily cool Audi A2 hatchback from the early 2000s had a super-short hood and a blocked-off front grille, the latter of which flipped down so you could refill the oil and washer fluid. The A2's hood itself was otherwise sealed on with no way to easily open it from inside or outside the car, requiring a dealer visit (or a mechanically minded person) to actually remove it.