MERCEDES-BENZ will reveal a pure electric concept car at the Paris motor show in September – tipped to take the form of an SUV that will debut a new, futuristic design language.
The zero-emissions concept car will be the first in a family of four confirmed electric vehicles split into two SUVs and two sedans – one of which will take the fight to the Tesla Model S, and will provide the clearest look yet at Mercedes’ future electric strategy.
Built on a new scalable electric vehicle platform called Electric Vehicle Architecture (EVA), the SUV will be four-wheel drive, have a range of 500km and could produce Tesla-beating levels of performance, with Mercedes director of E-Drive system Jurgen Schenk saying “it will be dangerous”.
Schenk wouldn’t be drawn on whether that means the SUV will match, or possibly beat the brutal performance of the Telsa Model S – which can hit 0-100km/h in 3.0sec – but he did add “right now we can make an electric car that can out-perform any AMG model for instance.”
Following its Paris debut, a production version of the electric SUV is likely to hit the road in 2019.
“It’s expected in this decade, we don’t tell you more about the real year,” said Schenk. “Maybe you will get more information at the Paris auto show, but it’s planned for this decade.”
Mercedes is investing heavily in its electrified future, and will spend €500million to build a second battery plant to more than double its production capacity, as well as employing a core team of 450 dedicated e-mobility engineers.
“We started with 42 people in 2007 and now there are around 450 in the main team and over 1000 in the wider team,” said Schenk.
While the SUV concept is expected to be a standalone model, the EVA is engineered to slot beneath existing Mercedes models, to improve the economies of scale of future electric cars.
“The electric architecture is provided to put any type of vehicle on it,” said Schenk, who described the process as like putting on a top hat. “It could be a normal sedan, a station wagon, a small SUV or a big SUV, it’s provided to deliver a solution for a wide range of vehicles.”
And while Mercedes’ first dedicated electric car will offer a range of 500km (a Tesla S 90D currently has a claimed range of 557km), Schenk expects battery advancements to see that number double to 1000km of pure electric range within five years.
As well as pursuing pure electric cars, Mercedes will also launch a range of new fuel cell models, the first being the GLC F-Cell (pictured) that boasts a 500km range and a refuelling time under three minutes, though it is a low priority for Australia.
Plug-in hybrids also play a part in Mercedes’ strategy, with the brand reaffirming its plan to have 10 plug-in models by 2020 – one of which will be the facelifted S-Class [link to Duff’s story] due next year.
The next S-Class will debut inductive charging, a new family of in-line six-cylinder petrol engines and the latest version of Mercedes’ Drive Pilot system, which will take the Mercedes brand a step closer to fully autonomous driving.