Mercedes B-class Electric Drive: Built for Americans

By · September 18, 2013

Mercedes B-class Electric Drive

Mercedes B-class Electric Drive

When it was introduced two years ago, the current generation of the Mercedes B-class was supposed to get a plug-in hybrid version. It quickly disappeared, but last year in Paris, suddenly there was the concept of an electric B-class. It's shown up again at the current 2013 Frankfurt Motor Show, looking much more like a regular production model. So it was time to ask a few questions.

It won't be available before late 2014 or early 2015, but the spokesperson I spoke with in Frankfurt quickly added that it will be available at the end of next Spring in America. WHAT? What's this stupid idea that Americans should be served first?

The new Mercedes S-class is available now in Germany, but it won't be available to Americans before next year. Just like Europeans had to wait more than six months after Americans to get a Chevrolet Volt or a Tesla Model S. It's simply a part of the normal functioning of the universe that when a new car is launched, it's first available in its manufacturer's home market before exports begin.

Mercedes B-class Electric Drive

Mercedes B-class Electric Drive

Me thinks there is something highly unusual here. Mercedes doesn't give a clear explanation for this situation, but there's an obvious reason: Californian regulation. Mercedes wants to be compliant, but there's more to the story since the car will be available everywhere in the U.S. as well as in several European countries.

The electric B-class has a little bit of American blood in its veins. The motor and battery will be supplied by Tesla Motors. Some people may see that as a good thing, but traditional Mercedes fans will see it as shameful. When Mercedes greets its stand's visitors at the Frankfurt Motor Show by saying it is the inventor of the automobile, it shouldn't have to get any engineering from an outside company.

The electric Smart shows how things are done. The first generation was developed by British firm Zytek. That company also helped on the second generation, which used a battery supplied by Tesla Motors. But the third generation, the first to actually be sold, is a true Daimler product. Its batteries and motor are built by Mercedes or partners under its control. Or could it be that this electric B-class will be superior to the competition thanks to Tesla components? Mercedes doesn't give a full spec sheet yet, only provisional figures with the 0 to 60 mph in 7.9 seconds and a 115 miles range in "US City driving." Acceleration is better than the Nissan LEAF, but not the range.

Mercedes B-class Electric Drive

Mercedes B-class Electric Drive

At least, the B-class is a great car. It's about the same length as a LEAF, but it's a bit taller and wider to make it roomy inside. The diesel B-class is quite popular as a taxi. Chassis engineers have also done a great job. The battery pack sits below the floor, and the big trunk is exactly the same as in the gas version. The cargo space is much larger than the Leaf's, and is possibly the car's best asset. Fit and finish are above average, with a stronger feeling of luxury than in Tesla Model S. The door panels look cheap in the Tesla sedan, not in the B-class. Charging will be slow, with Mercedes saying that two hours at 240V will give 60 miles of range (it's probably with 32 amps), and the car won't be inexpensive with complete drivetrains shipped from California to Germany.

All right then. As a European, I don't mind Americans having the Mercedes B-class Electric Drive first.

Comments

· · 44 weeks ago

Laurant, for Americans? You didn't show us a picture, but I would bet it has a Mennekes connector on it. They'd have to have either a J1772 adapter or make other arrangements to have it be of use in the states.. Also, some of us also like to occassionally charge at 110 volts (In the USA and Canada, these are 95% of outlets total and 99% of the outlets you'd find out of doors), and some of the European sourced Chargers (most of the Brusa units for instance) can run on our single phase generally available power but Cannot run on 110.

· · 44 weeks ago

Charging is not slow, it has the standard 9.6kW Tesla onboard charger so it will charge L2 faster than anything else available in America other than Tesla or Tesla product (RAV4 EV has the same 9.6kW charger).

The unfortunate thing is it does not have DC quick charge option.

· · 44 weeks ago

Price? $45k?

· · 44 weeks ago

Faster than LEAF? Both cars are 7.9s 0-60.

· · 44 weeks ago

well, i'm seeing conflicting reports on LEAF results, but when I drive it feels and sounds like a jet taking off ;-)

· · 44 weeks ago

@Tom Mouloghney

Thats Cool then.. If they use that really stylish Leviton '400' (40 amps, from home depot, which mounts OVER the 50 amp welder outlet) then you'd think Leviton would start advertising it. For those who want to prepare, its available at Home Depot amounst other places, and no I don't get paid for saying it. I just hope the j1772 jack doesn't overheat like it does in the Rav4.

· · 44 weeks ago

@marcin I must disagree on your Leaf numbers. Several 0-60 test on my own Leaf show a 0-60 of 10.5s, on level ground, in D gear.

· · 44 weeks ago

Looks an awful lot like my Ford Focus Electric!

· · 44 weeks ago

With a driving range only somewhat better than the LEAF's and no quick charge option, I fail to see how Mercedes could consider this vehicle to be worthy of the Mercedes name. In my opinion, Mercedes needs to do more than procure Tesla battery packs; they need to follow Tesla's lead.

· · 44 weeks ago

The B-Class is a wonderful car. Getting it with a Tesla drive train is awesome.

However, if Daimler was serious about battery electric, they would develop their own drive train. Using Tesla's technology is an effective way to get over the hump. What Daimler has been developing, and is considering the long term solution, is a fuel cell powered electric car.

· · 44 weeks ago

The car in Frankfurt had a Mennekes connector, but it will have a different connector and charging system for America.

· · 44 weeks ago

"What's this stupid idea that Americans should be served first?"

ZEV Mandates. Create your own such law and you'll be served faster as well.

· · 44 weeks ago

If the battery pack is under the floor, then why the giant humped console; that looks like it takes up 4-5 cu ft?

· · 44 weeks ago

If the battery pack is under the floor, then why the giant humped console; that looks like it takes up 4-5 cu ft?

· · 44 weeks ago

"· josephbell · 3 days ago

Looks an awful lot like my Ford Focus Electric!"

Unless you open the hatch and look at the large, flat floor rear luggage compartment on the Mercedes B-class, as opposed to the tiny space in the rear of the FFE, with the big battery bulkhead between that tiny rear compartment and the rear seats. Or open the hood to find a Tesla drivetrain instead of Ford's unit sourced from Magna International.

And why shouldn't Mercedes utilize Tesla engineering? Daimler has an ownership stake in Tesla, and a Daimler AG Vice President of E-Drive and Future Mobility on Tesla's board. With the respect currently being garnered by Tesla's drivetrain, it seems like a logical choice to me.

· · 44 weeks ago

Perhaps the larger and more important think to keep in mind is that we've got another major auto manufacturer wanting to offer an EV to the North American market. No talk of California exclusivity here either (fingers crossed they won't pull the rug from under us, with a later press release announcing that they'll be cutting off sales to the other 49 states.) If it all plays out, that's good news.

I also see an average sized vehicle with an enormous cargo hold, which not a bad thing. The Leaf is a little too tight back there and, while I have yet to see the Focus EV (but will next weekend at our local NPID event,) I understand it's particularly tiny.

Mercedes would do well to offer high speed charging. My guess is they will. Undoubtedly, this would take the form of an SAE-CCS plug, as they are tied in with that coalition.

· · 44 weeks ago

@Bill Howland - The RAV4 J-1772 inlets melting is totally the fault of the EVSE, not the vehicle. It has been shown that poor crimping of the pins in the J-handle is responsible for the majority of the failures. Reputable companies like Schneider have recalled their units and promptly fixed the ones in the field. They even paid to repair a RAV4 EV that was damaged by one of their residential units without the car's owner going to unusual lengths to get them to do so. The reason that this car has exposed this issue is that it can pull up to 40 amps but has no thermal protection. Honda really got that one right on the Fit EV by integrating a thermal sensor on their J-1772 inlet.

If the B-Class EV is really released with a battery with less than 40kWh usable and no DCQC, they are really showing how little they understand the BEV market.

· · 44 weeks ago

Whether Mercedes Benz understands BEVs or not, they do understand that they make a boat load of Deutsche Marks selling oil spewing cars in California, and they likely only need to sell less than 2000 of these in California between now and 2017 model year.

Like the BMW offering, I'm convinced that they could add a blue and white propeller or a three point star on a steaming turd, and it would sell in California.

The fact that it has no quick charge option at all with a LEAF sized battery (plus about 15%) tells me all I need to know about the real EV ambitions... CARB compliance, and pump out the oil burners.

· · 44 weeks ago

The interior of the car super sucks. Look at all that stinking wood and leather, look at those old fashions needle indicators. It all is in line with an old man’s car ugly tastes.
Frankly I rather have high tech polymer materials, special fibers and digital indicators. Perhaps even head up digital display on a super lightweight carbonate front window that also act like a solar panel generating energy.
I want high tech car not a smelly old fashion grand pa looking tech denying car.
In this case, Mercedes is adding a negative value to the high tech Tesla drive train instead of adding positive value to it.

· · 44 weeks ago

@Tony - Of course, you're right. The combination of battery size and charging methods they have chosen shows that M-B does not want this vehicle to be too popular. That would eat into their bread and butter. The question is - will they be forced into the same rebate and discount game as Toyota to move the required quantity. It will be very interesting to watch these new German entries in the CA ZEV market.

· · 43 weeks ago

@Tony wrote: >>>>>>The fact that it has no quick charge option at all with a LEAF sized battery (plus about 15%) tells me all I need to know about the real EV ambitions... CARB compliance, and pump out the oil burners.<<<<<<<

It might be telling us more about CCS, which M-B has committed to use for quick-charging. I don't blame them for trying to defer confronting that reality for just a little longer.

So one more CCS-equipped EV that's not going to happen. And so the Frankenplug continues its lumbering journey toward the abyss . . .

· · 43 weeks ago

It doesn't have QC because Tesla doesn't support either CHAdeMO, nor SAE.

BTW, it is nice to see that the car will be sold all over US - probably as an answer to i3 - rather than just a CA based compliance car.

· · 41 weeks ago

@EVNow wrote: >>>>>>It doesn't have QC because Tesla doesn't support either CHAdeMO, nor SAE.<<<<<<

Not so much. Tesla has acknowledged that the CCS protocol is close enough to their own that an adapter would be mostly a physical connector, with little needed in the way of "smarts." That being the case, just putting a CCS socket in front of their EV drive system would not be much of a challenge.

Which brings us back to the truth - this car doesn't have CCS because M-B doesn't want to ship CCS, for whatever reason. Not exactly an inspiring testament to the bright future of the Frankenplug.

· · 41 weeks ago

All this talk about the need of a DCQC inlet is wrong. The need for a DCQC is way overblown. We have two BEVs, one with a DCQC inlet and the other an Active E with a 6.6KW OBC w/o a DCQC inlet and frankly we've never come across an occasion to need fast charging. I'm not sure how many of these posters are actual EV users with real long term experience owning and driving an EV.

· · 41 weeks ago

@HL: I think you're being too dismissive of quick-charging. While I agree that the "electric filling station" model that many people have in mind with DCQC is misguided, I don't think that renders CHAdeMO and/or CCS irrelevant for "true" EV fans, much less owners (I am the latter). There is no L3 charging in my state at all at this time, but I still plunked down the $700 for CHAdeMO on my car, because it is not at all difficult for me to imagine a use for slapping on a quick 50 miles of extra range in some odd circumstance or other, and DCQC isn't the sort of thing one can retrofit if one changes one's mind later. True, I've never missed the lack of local L3 infrastructure so far, but then we own a Prius that's extremely efficient for the sort of drives that would test my BEV range. By contrast, strategically configured DCQC networks could make the difference for one-car households that might be able to cover >90% of their needs with a BEV and L2 charging, but would need more range too often for renting to be practical. Quick-charging, even Tesla's Supercharging , does NOT make BEVs suitable for cross-continent road trips (though Tesla SC comes closer if you can hook right up when you stop), but it can definitely make BEVs a more practical alternative for sprawling metroplexes.

· · 41 weeks ago

Why don't they send the damn diesel over? In fact make it a plug in with diesel range extender! Sheesh, they're making this a lot harder than it needs to be.

· · 41 weeks ago

@HL,

Let's look at this DCQC question another way. My wife and I are a two-car household. We have a Leaf and a hybrid. The Leaf does 90% of our trips, but since those are the short trips, it's actually about 50% of our miles. I need a car that fits the Tesla model to really replace the hybrid - 200+ miles of range, quick charges in < 1hr. I for one am dying to rid myself of gasoline, but the only car that fits the bill is the Model S. I need more options - and less expensive ones.

· · 41 weeks ago

"All this talk about the need of a DCQC inlet is wrong. The need for a DCQC is way overblown. We have two BEVs, one with a DCQC inlet and the other an Active E with a 6.6KW OBC w/o a DCQC inlet and frankly we've never come across an occasion to need fast charging. I'm not sure how many of these posters are actual EV users with real long term experience owning and driving an EV."

I'm with Brian. I am a RAV4 EV owner and having a larger battery AND DCQC would make the B-Class a much more appealing vehicle. As it sits now, the B-Class EV has 1/3 less battery than my car and the same on-board charger. I am well aware of what my car can do, where I can take it and when it's just easier to take a gasser. I actually like the B-Class appearance and shape better than the RAV, but it's less usable in that there are monthly trips that I can conveniently take in the RAV that I would not be able to make in the B-Class EV.

· · 41 weeks ago

Just read an article about this car. An executive said it would have a real world range of 125 miles. That beats my Leaf by 50 miles. Nothing to sneeze at if it is true. Price it competitively and they could have a hit. I was hoping the i3 range would be better but BMW totally missed the mark in my opinion. Hope this car does what they say it does or I will be forced to buy a Tesla.

· · 40 weeks ago

@ctaylor,

You should wait to see what the EPA numbers are on the car before you judge how much better it is than your Leaf. It has only 4 kWh (17%) more battery than your Leaf. Even if you're generous and say the efficiency is higher and give it 25% more range than the Leaf, you're still below 100 miles EPA range.

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