Thursday, October 24, 2013

Mercedes Electric B-Class Will Battle BMW i3 For Luxury EV Drivers

The BMW i3 isn’t due to launch in the U.S. until next year, but with the European launch only a few weeks away, glowing test-drive reports are flooding in. With 8,000 reservations already taken in Europe alone, the i3 could be a winner. That will only raise the stakes for Mercedes, as its all-electric B class competes with the i3 for EV buyers.
The Mercedes-Benz B-class platform, currently not available in any form in the U.S., is unfamiliar ground for American car buyers. It's slightly larger than the European A-class—but slightly shorter, wider and taller than the CLA-Class. For the past few years, Mercedes-Benz has used the B-Class as a platform for several prototype and concept cars, including hydrogen fuel cell and all-electric models. The new Mercedes-Benz B-Class electric car, due in 2014, is based on the automaker’s Concept B-Class E-Cell Plus, which debuted at the Frankfurt International Motor Show in 2011.
Talking to Automobilwoche this week, Thomas Weber, Daimler’s chief of research and development, said the Mercedes-Benz B-class Electric Drive would not only outperform the purpose-built i3 in terms of range and speed, but would also outsell it. “In all key criteria, this vehicle will be at least as competitive as our competitor’s models,” he said. While pricing is not set, Weber said it would be “extremely competitive.”
Mercedes-Benz pitches the 2014 B-Class Electric Drive with an urban freedom vibe, and a Daft Punk-ish soundtrack.
Paddle-Regeneration
Like many other German automakers, the Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive will come with paddle-shifters mounted on the steering wheel to allow drivers to adjust the amount of regenerative braking applied on accelerator liftoff. Quickly becoming the gold standard for setting adjustable regenerative braking and found on everything from the Cadillac ELR to the Volkswagen e Golf (and even the European version of the Smart ForTwo Electric Drive), paddle-shift regen controls provide a sportier driving experience than single-button modes.
No Compromises?
With seating for four and a modest 9.18 cubic feet of trunk space, the BMW i3 isn’t the most practical of cars for people with children. But, promises Weber, the B-Class Electric Drive will offer far more space, making it the better choice for EV shoppers with families.
“With the B class, we are bringing out an electric vehicle with five full-fledged seats and no constraints on trunk space,” he said. “With torque of significantly more than 300 newton meters (221 pound-feet) and an acceleration of 0-62 mph (0-100 km) in 7.9 seconds, we are offering sports car feeling in a compact car. And the batteries are fully charged in three hours.” He said the B-class Electric Drive will have a real-world range of about 125 miles. As we’ve seen, there can be a big difference between the driving range and EPA efficiency ratings reported by automakers, and what everyday drivers experience.
The larger Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive will have a size and versatility advantage over the quirky i3. But the appeal the optional range-extending engine offered on the i3—capable of adding about 80 to 100 miles of gas-powered range on top of the 80 to 100 miles of electric drive—could be a decisive factor.