Meet the BMW i3 Predecessor: A 1982 Mercedes-Benz Range-Extended Station Wagon Prototype

4 years ago by Eric Loveday 9

1982 Plug-In Hybrid Mercedes Wagon

1982 Plug-In Hybrid Mercedes Wagon

mercedes-benz-w123-electric-5

Time for a Battery Swap

If the BMW i3 had a predecessor, this would be it.

In 1982, Mercedes-Benz wheeled out a REx version of its W123 T (T for Touring) station wagon at the 32nd annual Hanover Trade Fair.  Mercedes knew it was on the right track, but technology of the day wouldn’t allow for the REx W123 to make it into production.

The M-B REx looked almost identical to the standard W123, with the only noticeable exterior differences being metal vent grates blow the rear windows (to cool the battery pack) and an enlarged fuel filler door (to plug it in).

But under the skin, the REx version of the W123 was incredibly outside the norm.

A 41-hp electric motor was found in the engine bay.  That motor sent power to the rear wheels via a 4-speed trans.  A rear-mounted nickel-iron hydride battery pack provided the juice and was actually removeable via a wheel and supporting mechanism.  Was it battery swap-capable?  Sure.  You just had to do it manually.

The battery itself tipped the scales at 1,322 pounds and devoured almost the entire cargo space of the W123.  It provided only 62 miles of range, but a REx was standard.

A wimpy 2-cylinder engine handled range-extending duties and could provide up to 30 miles of additional range.  The tiny engine couldn’t power the massive W123, but it could extend range slightly.

But still, the massive and weighty W123 was painfully slow.  Top speed was only 50 mph.  Acceleration?  Nope.

As usual, Mercedes-Benz was ahead of the times.

Today, we see the BMW i3 as “borrowing” and advancing the technology found in the W123.  The difference today is that technology has come a long way and weight is no longer an obstacle that can’t be overcome.  The i3 makes use of extremely lightweight materials (and has the advantage of employing significantly lighter battery technology) to basically duplicate what M-B created 31 years ago.

As for Mercedes-Benz , the REx W123 was only the beginning.  M-B followed that up with a several plug-in prototype vehicles, including a pure electric vehicle of the W201 190 in 1990.

Gallery: Double Click to Enlarge

via RanWhenParked

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9 responses to "Meet the BMW i3 Predecessor: A 1982 Mercedes-Benz Range-Extended Station Wagon Prototype"

  1. Brian says:

    “acceleration was likely measure in light years”

    Ouch. You do know that light years is a measure of distance, right? (the distance light will travel in one year) I didn’t know you could measure acceleration in units of distance 😛

    1. Eric Loveday says:

      Fixed…Thanks

  2. Ocean Railroader says:

    If this old car is still around I wounder how much range incise it would get if all these lead acid batteries where replaced with lithium and how many pounds it would drop. Such as if this car has 62 miles with heavy lead acid batteries then lithium should allow it to have a hundred mile range and take weight pressure off of the car’s frame and tires.

  3. Spec says:

    Wow! Look at that mass of lead-acid batteries. Without Li-Ions, the EV transition would have gone nowhere.

    1. Ocean Railroader says:

      I think the lead acid battery was also helped kill off the EV by the 1920’s such as if EV’s had been allowed to raise their ranges to 100 miles by 1925 along with having top speeds of 60 to 70 miles on hour they would have lasted a lot longer and could have even prospered during World War One and World War 2 do to the oil saving measures. If lithium had in the 1920’s it would have destroyed the Ice.

  4. doug says:

    I had a comment here, but it disappeared?

    1. staff says:

      The comment was in reference to a source for this article, which is noted below the photo gallery on the article.

  5. Ryan says:

    Unreal how that battery form factor looks exactly like the Li batteries today.

  6. Ryan says:

    You want to see impressive and how electric has been possible all along; google GM’s Electrovair. Back in 1966! 532 volts AC 80mph top speed and 80 mile range. And that was just a first effort!

    If GM cared; they would do dramatic and wild things. Entrenched in the old ways; business as usual.