Mercedes Promises Four More Electric Cars by 2020
Mercedes-Benz promised last year to offer 10 plug-in hybrids before the end of 2017. Now the company is saying it will add four pure electric cars to its lineup by 2020. These tandem goals, if fulfilled, would fill Mercedes dealerships with a wide array of plug-in sedans and SUVs.
Despite its aggressive targets, Mercedes-Benz has not yet made an impact on the plug-in car market in the United States. Sales of the Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive tallied only about 2,000 units in 2015—and the flagship S550 Plug-in Hybrid added another couple dozen monthly sales. Production of a plug-in hybrid version of the company’s compact C-class compact was targeted for 2015, but was postponed.
In May, Thomas Weber, the outgoing head of research for Daimler, indicated that the four new Mercedes EVs would consist of two sedans and two SUVs—largely based on C-Class and S-Class sedan models, and the GLA and GLC sport utilities. In keeping with an industry trend, new Mercedes vehicle platforms are now designed to accommodate electric powertrains and battery packs—as well as fuel cell electric systems. Weber said the GLC Fuel Cell, due in 2017, would show how Mercedes is adapting internal combustion models with electric powertrains.
The company’s so-called Modular Electric Architecture can use either rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive in combination with up to three electric motors. The company is also developing those electric motors in-house, and investing in dedicated battery production lines. When the latest generation of lithium ion batteries are utilized, Mercedes electric cars could provide as much as 250 miles of driving range on a single charge—although the specific range of future models is not yet known.
The latest announcement follows news from late April that the German government is offering attractive rebates to consumers buying or leasing an electric car. “The goal is to move forward as quickly as possible on electric vehicles,” said Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble. “With this, we are giving an impetus.” German Chancellor Angela Merkel set a goal of putting 1 million EVs on German roads by 2020. The rebates, available on cars selling for less than $65,000, is about $4,500 per vehicle.
In addition to Mercedes electric cars, Daimler is planning to offer electric version under its Smart brand. Two Smart electric mini-cars—one two-seater and one four-seat model—are expected to debut later this year. As a result, there could be as many as six EVs produced by the German car company in the next three to four years.
Mercedes reportedly was considering the creation of a sub-brand just for electric cars—in a manner similar to BMW’s i brand (or what Hyundai is planning)—but the focus in the short term is apparently on technology and production rather than marketing. “What we’re going to do in terms of the road to zero emissions is invest heavily in alternative drivelines and electrification,” said Ola Källenius, head of Daimler sales and marketing. “It’s something that will affect the whole portfolio.”
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