Tuesday, October 29, 2013

2014 Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive will beat Nissan Leaf

The 2014 Mercedes-Benz B=Class Electric Drive shares the platform of the CLA-Class and A-Class models, swapping out the gas for electric power by way of a battery built by Tesla Motors. Hitting the market in the United States in June 2014, the B-Class Electric Drive is quiet, speedy, and has more range than competitors like the Nissan Leaf.
The 2014 Mercedes-Benz B-Class features a battery built by Tesla that offers up to 115 miles of estimated range on a single charge.Mercedes-Benz may have chosen to fly journalists to Germany for an exclusive preview of its 2014 B-Class Electric Drive, but the mood in Stuttgart was focused almost entirely on the United States.
That was no accident, as the U.S. will be the initial launch market for the B-class Electric Drive, which debuted at the 2013 New York International Auto Show, and was refined to fit the tastes and lifestyles of American EV drivers. The B-Class is a five-passenger, multipurpose vehicle that rides on a shared platform with the CLA-Class sedan and the A-Class hatchback, and is already on sale in some markets with an internal combustion engine.
Mercedes-Benz is confident, however, that an electrified B-Class people carrier is a natural fit for the U.S. market, according to J├╝rgen Schenk, Mercedes-Benz’s chief engineer of electric vehicles.
“This is a typical [electric] vehicle that provides everything that American people need,” Schenk said. “We think some of the competitors are just too small.”
Mercedes-Benz has some experience with electric-only powertrains, including the limited-run SLS AMG Electric Drive supercar, and its Smart subsidiary’s two-passenger pipsqueak, the Fortwo Electric Drive. At the heart of the B-Class Electric Drive is a system sandwiched beneath the passenger compartment, codeveloped with Tesla. As part of an agreement between the manufacturers, the B-Class’s battery is produced by Tesla at its factory in California, and then shipped to Europe for the vehicle’s assembly.
Total power output from the electric motor is approximately 175 horsepower and 250 lb-ft. of torque, through a single-speed transmission, which allows the B-class Electric Drive to scoot to 60 mph in about 8 seconds. The B-Class Electric Drive tops out around 100 mph, but the critical figure to most EV drivers will be its 115 miles of estimated range – higher than current competitors’ of similar size, like the Nissan Leaf. A full battery charge, on a Level 2 charger, will take approximately four hours.
A brief road test along Stuttgart’s hilly, trafficked thoroughfares confirmed the suspicion that the B-Class Electric Drive will offer no major shocks and surprises, compared to the experience of driving competitive EVs. From the perspective of a rear-seat passenger, on the road, the powertrain and suspension acted in well-sorted harmony, allowing the delightful thrust of immediate torque to come on smoothly. Devoid of noise emanating from the engine bay and entering the cabin, the ride was whisper-quiet, with the exception of the occasional electric whoosh as a reminder of the B-class’s electrified core
Inside, prepare for a smooth ride...especially given the lack of engine noise.
With the introduction of the B-Cass Electric Drive on American shores – the brand has sold previous generations of the B-Class north and south of the border – Mercedes-Benz is also betting that its yet-unfamiliar shape will find favor with current owners, as well as penetrate the growing market of EV buyers.
The B-Class’s exterior is an adaptation of styling cues from the CLA sedan and the outgoing R-class MPV, and the B-Class’s interior will be recognizable to those familiar with the control layout from the CLA-class sedan. As in the CLA sedan, a large infotainment system sits atop the center stack, directly above three prominent air vents that lie on a swoopy piece of dashboard trim.
Unique to the B-Class Electric Drive is an instrument cluster that features an energy monitor to the right of the speedometer, with which drivers can monitor battery usage and charge. The B-Class will also be the first Mercedes-Benz EV to feature a pre-collision safety monitoring system.
When the B-Class Electric Drive comes to market in the United States in June 2014, the all-electric B-Class will compete with a new class of EVs and plug-in, extended-range hybrids, such as BMW’s upcoming i3 electric city car. Unlike the i3, which can be fitted with a “range extender,” the B-Class will not have a backup source of power. Rollout will be nationwide, although Schenk has particular hopes for California, which he says “is prepared for electric drive, and there are outlets everywhere.”
Pricing has not yet been announced, but Schenk’s team insinuated that the B-Class Electric Drive will be a “premium product.” We’re anxious to find out if there are enough eager buyers in America looking to plug in to a new way of owning a Mercedes-Benz.