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

By · October 24, 2013

Mercedes B-class Electric Drive

Mercedes B-class Electric Drive

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 eGolf (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 (0-100km) 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.

Comments

· · 4 years ago

If it is $35K or lower, then it will sell... But if it is $45k or higher, then it won't...

Just look at eRav4 price....

· · 4 years ago

Why are those cars all put the charging port in the back?

Sure, it works for Europe. But in the US with slanted one way parking lots, putting it in the rear only makes it hard to reach the charging stations....

Nissan LEAF is the best at this by having it in the front.....

I guess Europeans don't like to back out of their parking spot....

· · 4 years ago

I agree that it's desirable to put the charge port up front like the LEAF.

On a more general note, I have virtually no interest in these EVs from BMW or Mercedes. The Tesla S and X seem so much more appealing in terms of range, quick charging, functionality, performance, and general coolness. I think this explains the willingness of so many to stretch their budgets for a Tesla.

· · 4 years ago

I had a two week loan of a Mitsubishi iMiEV last month and, on one occasion, accessed a public L-2 Blink terminal. Although the iMiEV is shorter than the Mercedes, there was plenty of cable length to stretch to the rear quarter panel port. Most of my charging was done overnight at home, anyway (L-1.)

A true 5-seater in a hatchback wagon format with lots of trunk space? Depending on the price point, it may be more of a competitor to the Leaf than the i3.

125 miles of "real world range" is another interesting point. I assume that's mostly city-only driving? I'd be interested to see how that translates to 65mph on the rather flat 100 mile stretch of I-10 between Tucson and Phoenix. Even if the range is only about 80 miles this way, there are now two L-3s along that stretch of road (one of which is going to be wired with an SAE-CCS plug.) The 2 or 3 times per year I would need to make that trip would be very doable.

And . . . the adjustable paddle regen system is another plus for in-town driving. I wish the iMiEV had this, as the presets were often not enough or too much.

· · 4 years ago

Paddles for regeneration?! The golden standard?! Really?!

Is that for people that cannot modulate the pedals with their feet?

· · 4 years ago

Not sure how much pure EV driving you've done, vdiv, but you might want to think of a paddle to control regeneration sort of like an infinitely variable gear selector in an ICE car.

· · 4 years ago

(continued)

If I'm going down a hill in an ICE car and moving too quickly, I either shift to a lower gear, pulse brakes or (more likely) do a bit of both. In an EV I can choose one of a couple of regeneration levels from the shifter, but I might have to be either still pulsing brakes or - if the other regen preset is particularly strong - actually accelerating downhill, so as not to bog down traffic behind me.

With paddle control I can choose a slightly less aggressive regen setting from the shifter and pulse the paddle as needed for very precise deceleration control, but still utilize conventional brake and acceleration pedals. I get the maximum amount of regen possible for a particular driving situation.

I first read about the paddle system on this blog when Brad Berman was reviewing the Honda Fit EV, which also has it. It didn't really sink in how useful it would be until I had a few more electric miles under my belt.

· · 4 years ago

I don't consider either of these vehicles to be in the "luxury" class.

· · 4 years ago

Paddle regen does sound good. I typically always look to regen when going downhill, but it can sometimes be an all or nothing proposition. And as Ben said, if there are cars behind you it means you often have to switch from regen to coast(N) and then D. The paddles might be the answer, since they allow more control over the amount of regen.
Lou

· · 4 years ago

Actually, one of the reasons why I like EVs is the continuous nature of the drivetrain, the smoothness and simplicity it offers, and the predictable behavior it has. I have over 22,000 miles driven in an EV, mostly in my Volt. I drive it in L mode, which provides significant regeneration just by letting off of the accelerator pedal. In the rare case when I need to stop the car faster I use the brake pedal, which maximizes the regenerative braking and then applies the friction brakes.

· · 4 years ago

Interesting. When I had the loan of a Volt (vdiv's car,) having paddle control didn't occur to me as being a necessity. Regen on that car is probably "geared" differently, but weight of the vehicle might also have been a factor on how it behaved coasting downhill. If memory serves (it was about a year ago,) I also spent most of my time driving in L.

It was while driving the loaner iMiEV (Lou's car) recently that I really felt the desire to have a paddle. The car's ECO mode felt best for most driving situations but the regen could have been just a bit stronger. The B shifter position gave a snappier acceleration (not really needed in most situations) but a far stronger regen that was pretty much overkill. In that car, ECO would have been absolutely perfect, if I had a paddle.

OK, sing along everyone (channeling Peter, Paul & Mary here) . . .

"If I had a paddle, I'd a paddle in the mornin'.
I'd paddle in the evenin'. All over this land.
I'd paddle out hillways, I'd paddle out straightaways.
I'd paddle out 'lectrons between my motor and my batteries.
All, all, all over this land."

:- P

· · 4 years ago

I'd agree this seems more of a luxury alternative to the LEAF than a true i3 competitor, at least functionally (more similar in configuration and BEV-only vs. REx). Then again, maybe the competition makes more sense viewed through the prism of German luxury car buyers - they're not shopping for LEAFs, and are probably less focused on the absolute utility of their luxo-Teuton green ride than being seen in it.

· · 4 years ago

The issue with Regen is how it is implemented...

Volt's L mode allow you to be in any of the mode, (sports, normal, mountain and EV hold) to use that L mode. You can easily shift out of L to D to get more gliding... or modulate it with your feet.

But in order to do max regen on the LEAF and i-MiEV, you have to be in B mode and Eco. That is 2 to 3 switch controls, not easily done on the fly....

BMW i3 has the max regen built in, but you can't easily glide without modulating the accelerator pedal with your feet...

Choices are good.

· · 4 years ago

Its plain jane, underwhelming styling will not help its sales. Looks too much like one of their multiple number of crossover/wagon/whatevers. The i3 stands out like the hot selling 2nd generation Prius did while the B(oring)-class appears to be following the Honda Civic hybrid route of anonymity.

· · 4 years ago

Despite the executive bluff it's safe to assume this won't sell anywhere near as well as the i3. It just lacks the cool factor and there is no chance it could make up for that in price and interior space. 125 miles of range would be impressive if that's not mostly bluff as well, however without range extender option it should have had quick charge capability to match i3's longer range capabilities.

· · 4 years ago

what is that in the front (under the hood)? Is that an engine? battery? What is the price?

· · 4 years ago

No way will a 28kWh battery vehicle about the same weight, size and performance of a 24kWh Nissan LEAF get 125 miles of "real world driving".

A Nissan LEAF will go about 84 miles at 65mph down the freeway when new, and the EPA rating for a fully charged LEAF is also 84 miles. I suspect that the B-Klasse ED will get 116% the range of a LEAF, or 98 miles EPA and about the same at 65mph.

The Chevy Spark EV compliance can go about 98 miles, also, at 62mph ground speed:

http://insideevs.com/real-world-test-shows-chevy-spark-ev-has-substainal...

Also, my understanding is that the B-Klasse ED won't have the Frankenplug port at all, but instead will be like the Toyota Rav4 EV compliance car with "Tesla Inside"; it has no DC quick charge capability at all, either.

· · 4 years ago

This car has:

- No weird doors. That is a major no from many people that want a car not a show up. Doors are efficient the way they are, no need for change there.
- A small but not too small size. Putting people in electrics doesn’t mean they want to be sardined. Size should be no different than from standard cars.
- Seating for five. All cars have that, so it is expected in an electric as well.

This car has not:

- A long range battery. This could have made the difference.
- A range extender. You either have a very large battery and superchargers all around, or you have a range extender. This car hasn’t a big battery, superchargers are not yet all around, so it will definitely lack a range extender.
- A Park & Forget system. This is not especially expected but as time go by people will start to view it in that way. It would certainly be more helpful than leather seats as an option.

Overall, the car offer five places, a normal pragmatic configuration and some more space than a Leaf, but range is still too short and the lack of a Rex is not allowing full standard car replacement. It will sell to a certain number of people but it is too bad it lack the Rex because it could have been a blockbuster.

· · 4 years ago

@Priusmaniac wrote: >>>>A small but not too small size. Putting people in electrics doesn’t mean they want to be sardined. Size should be no different than from standard cars.<<<<<<

Given current EV tech, I can't agree [disclosure: I bought an i-MiEV so my small-car bias is obvious]. Small BEVs have huge advantages over larger counterparts because weight kills - a bigger car weighs more, needs a bigger battery for comparable range, which in turn adds even more weight, and so on. Tesla solves this problem by ignoring cost and scaling up - putting a gigantic battery under a car large and powerful enough to haul it around, but that has come at a cost that prices it out of the mass market. For more price sensitive market segments, scaling down makes a lot of sense. I'm actually surprised we've not seen a BEV that resembles a Gen1 Insight (with both low mass and freeway-friendly aerodynamics), but perhaps auto marketers think more like you than me.

The i3 acknowledges the physics of all this with a purpose-built lightweight glider, probably even more important given the mass of the optional REx. Like other mini-cars, it's proportioned differently to provide a reasonably comfortable space in a small footprint. It's still pricey, but that's mainly the result of material choices and, well, brand value (ahem). The i8 probably comes closer to the Tesla "cost is no object" approach. M-B's middle-of-the-road approach (a la LEAF) is reasonable too, but that doesn't make the BMW i3's approach a bad one.

· · 4 years ago

Not everyone sees the bigger size as a plus. Looks like a solid offering otherwise. But I think I'd prefer my first EV to be purpose built, not a converted model.

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