Thirty years ago, Mercedes-Benz wowed the Hanover Fair with a pioneering electric vehicle test.
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The forthcoming Mercedes-Benz EQS might be at the forefront of electric vehicle design and implementation, but the electrified three-pointed star may have shone a little less brightly if it wasn’t for a pioneering EV test 30 years ago this week, featuring none other than the W201 190E.

In the innovation hall of the Hanover Fair in May 1990, Mercedes-Benz exhibited a 190E which had been converted to electric drive. The argument from Stuttgart being, the compact sedan presented the ideal and likely footprint of what an electric vehicle would, or should be.

A regular 190E tips the scales at 1210kg and is about 4.4m long. Dump the conventional driveline and replace with twin electric motors and a sodium-nickel chloride battery, and the 190E gains 200kg to come in almost exactly where a compact electric car like the Tesla Model 3 is today (4.7m long, 1609kg).

However, where the most basic Tesla offers 190kW, the 190 made do with 32kW. Fair to say battery tech has improved somewhat!

Feedback from the crowds at Hanover was positive, so Mercedes created 10 electric W201s and sent them to the island of Rügen on the Baltic Sea coast, where they worked as private and mass use (mainly taxis) vehicles for the next four years.

A charging network, using solar cells, was also installed for the trial.

The program was a significant success, with one car clocking up 100,000km in just one year, not bad for an island just 51km long!

The testing results provided detailed insights into battery service life, charge and discharge cycles and, of course, vehicle range and energy consumption metrics, and would go on to help Mercedes-Benz work toward a viable commercial electric car, the first being the EQC SUV.

While 1990 may not seem that long ago, in terms of the fast-paced development within the automotive industry, the story of the electric ‘Baby Benz’ is an entertaining anecdote.