Speaking to CarAdvice at the Mercedes-Benz technology day in Stuttgart last week, the head of the company’s electric-drive system integration, Jurgen Schenk, confirmed his company’s plans for battery improvement technology, which should see a nearly doubling of both battery energy density and consequent electric vehicle (EV) range every five years.
“We expect to improve the battery technology 14 per cent per year, which would lead to doubling the energy content with the same volume every five years.” Schenk told CarAdvice.
“We are the inventor of the motor vehicle, we know how to do it. We can double the number [of energy capacity or range] or shrink and reduce the costs," he said.
Above: the Mercedes-Benz F015 concept
CarAdvice spoke to Elon Musk last year, when the popular entrepreneur told us he expects battery technology to improve around five per cent each year, meaning a doubling in battery density should occur every 15 years, rather than the five that Mercedes-Benz is claiming.
Though where Mercedes may differ in its strategy to Tesla is to go with the best battery technology available on the market, rather than be tied into any one particular chemical composition.
“We are speaking about an improvement of battery technology over time, including a change from metal-based electrodes to sulphur-based, air-based, whatever it is. There is a race going on out there and we accept that race and will buy in whatever cell technology we can get from the market place and use it to outperform on the battery," Schenk said.
Tesla and Mercedes-Benz have had a working history together, with Tesla vehicles using plenty of Mercedes-Benz parts.
“What we learnt from them is speed. What they learnt from us is quality management, manufacturing and thinking things to the end. That might be a difference - they are eager, agile. We try and be as agile as they are and I think we are at eye level with them [now]."
Above: the 2013 SLS AMG Electric Drive
Schenk says that the Germany company’s experience in manufacturing cars for such a long period of time is a much harder lesson to learn for Tesla than the concept of making EVs is for Mercedes.
“They struggle with typical car-maker issues and we have to outperform them on the electronics.”
Mercedes-Benz will unveil its first purpose-built electric vehicle at this year’s Paris motor show, with an expected range of around 500 kilometres. This will go on sale before the end of this decade.