Mercedes-Benz product R&D manager Dr Thomas Weber has shrugged off suggestions that the production Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive shown at the Frankfurt motor show represents an inferior electric vehicle solution to BMW's dedicated 'i' brand of bespoke electric vehicles.
"The B-Class is we believe the perfect cars for families," begins Weber.
“Compare the [BMW] i3 with the B-Class – four-seater [versus] five-seater; 140-160km range [versus] 200km of range. A powerful drivetrain from Tesla inside.
“It’s a clear message to change only what is necessary to change.”
The B-Class Electric Drive retains its five-seat capability and regular boot volume as the lithium-ion batteries are ‘sandwiched’ between the cabin floor and chassis in what Mercedes-Benz calls an ‘Energy Space’.
Where Mercedes-Benz has partnered with Tesla for its electric motor and battery technology, BMW has designed and built its own electric motors for its models, which is something Weber also says doesn’t make the Mercedes-Benz strategy inferior.
“To make it clear, we have a relatively wide range of alternatives available for our hybrids, and for the Smart we do the electric motor in cooperation with Bosch … Only for the B-Class we do Tesla inside, with a clear strategy to change only what is necessary to make it a Mercedes-Benz.
“The clear strategy is to use Tesla, not to change Tesla. Brand-wise, Tesla is sexy, Tesla is an innovator, is a partner. We will help Tesla to survive … we use the hardware and we use the knowledge of our engineers to make this a Mercedes-Benz drivetrain.”
But Weber added that it was decided early on that Daimler would not purchase Tesla outright.
Although first shown at the New York motor show in March, the production Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive has since been upgraded as a final-release version for the Frankfurt motor show.
Previously claiming 100kW of power and 300Nm of torque from its electric motor, and a sub-10 second 0-100km/h, the ready-for-production B-Class Electric Drive now produces “provisional figures” of 130kW and 340Nm, and gets to triple-figure speed in 7.9 seconds.
As before, the B-Class Electric Drive claims a total driving range of 200km and has a top speed of 160km/h.
With plug-in recharging capability, the B-Class Electric Drive takes 1.5 hours to charge to 100km using a European 400V power socket, and “under two hours” for a 240V outlet found in the US.
Using a smartphone app with an internet connection, B-Class Electric Drive owners can also check the current charge of the car and estimated range, or individually cool or pre-heat the vehicle remotely.
Citing the generous-for-an-electric-vehicle range and fast-charge capability of the B-Class Electric Vehicle, and the research showing the daily driving of customers, Weber also took an indirect shot at vehicles such as the Opel Ampera (nee Holden Volt) and Audi A3 e-tron, saying “one thing is clear today – we don’t need a range extender.
“It only adds cost and weight.”
Weber also says electric vehicle technology will move quickly enough to make dedicated elecric vehicles viable even for those who want to travel longer distances and not pay a premium over a traditional petrol or diesel car.
“In a short period of time we will double the capacity of the battery and the price will be half, come to 2020. The same thing will happen on the electric motor side…”
The Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive will go on sale in the US and Europe from early next year, but the company’s local arm has stated that an Australian introduction is unlikely due to a lack of legislation and infrastructure supporting EVs.