Is Mercedes-Benz Pulling a Tesla By Offering Optional Bigger Battery Pack in B-Class Electric Drive?

4 Y BY TOM 51

It’s long been established that Daimler is using Tesla provided drivetrains and battery packs for the upcoming B-Class Electric Drive. However, I’m beginning to believe the electric B-Class may be borrowing one move from the Tesla playbook: An optional, larger battery pack.

Hey, What Is Happening In Here?

Hey, What Is Happening In Here?

Back in November, I had a conversation with Heiko Schmidt, product manager for Mercedes Benz USA, at the LA Auto Show regarding the B-Class electric drive. While Schmidt didn’t offer any indication of an optional, larger battery pack, he did however tell me that Daimler understands the psychological impact of seeing a triple-digit number on the Monroney window sticker and stated “Our clear target is to have that in the three-digit range.”

Mercedes has announced the battery pack will be 28 kWh. That is the total size of the pack, so figure the maximum usable amount to be around 25 kWh.

On the NEDC range test, the B-Class achieved a 200 km range, however before anyone gets excited, the NEDC test is not very strenuous and isn’t really an indication of how the vehicle will perform in real world driving conditions. As comparisons, the 2013 Nissan LEAF achieved a 200 km range and the BMW i3 did 190 km. You cannot simply do a direct conversion from NEDC to EPA to get what the range will be because the tests are very different, but since the LEAF then achieved an 84 mile range on the EPA 5-cycle test, I would expect the B-Class to be similar.  Well short of 100 miles, nonetheless.

Mercedes B-Class

Mercedes B-Class

So, the B-Class will simply be another 80 to 90 mile EV, just like everybody else on the block without a Tesla badge, right? Well, perhaps not. During the past six months or so I have had the opportunity to talk to people close to the program and even some that have test driven the car (in industry speak, these individuals are referred to as insiders). I also have acquaintances that have talked with people close to the program both here in the US and in Germany and many of them have promised the B-Class Electric Drive will have a range well over 100 miles, actually closer to 120 in fact.

Panasonic 18650 High Capacity Lithium Batteries - Stuff More of These in the B-Class and Range Increases

Panasonic 18650 High Capacity Lithium Batteries – Stuff More of These in the B-Class and Range Increases

I don’t believe there is any way the B-Class will have more than a 90 mile EPA rating with a 28 kWh battery pack. While its aerodynamics are very good (0.26 drag coefficient), it’s still a very heavy car, tipping the scales at around 3,900 lbs. It will likely have better highway range than a LEAF for example, but not do as well when it comes to lower speed, city driving. So, if indeed the B-Class is to achieve the kind of range that I have heard from multiple sources, how can they do it?

The easiest way is to simply do what Tesla does and offer an optional, larger battery pack. A 40 kWh pack would likely give the B-Class enough juice to be EPA rated at about 120 miles per charge. They can offer this as a $5,000 option and call it the “Range Package”. In doing so, Mercedes would separate themselves from the pack and offer a degree of “premium” not found in any other pure EV outside of Tesla.

Yes, I do know the RAV 4 EV has this kind of range, but since it’s such a low production compliance EV that is limited to California, I personally don’t include it in the conversations with real production electric vehicles. That being said, the B-Class EV still may pan out to be a very similar compliance play, but for now I’m giving Daimler the benefit of the doubt as I have been assured it will be available all across the country, once production increases to the point where they can supply enough of them.

Initially, the B-Class will only be available in the CARB “Compliance States” of CA, CT, MD, OR, NJ, NY, RI and VT when it launches later this year, which is still much better than what Toyota is doing with the RAV4. However, I have been told that by 2015 the B-Class Electric Drive will indeed be available nationwide.

Will M-B Reveal a B-Class With More Range?  We Sure Hope So.

Will M-B Reveal a B-Class With More Range? We Sure Hope So.

What do you think? Am I crazy to suggest this? I do hope it’s true because we definitely need to start getting some electric options that begin to bridge the huge gap between the current crop of 80 mile EV’s and the 200+ mile cars being sold by Tesla.

Category: Mercedes

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51 responses to "Is Mercedes-Benz Pulling a Tesla By Offering Optional Bigger Battery Pack in B-Class Electric Drive?"
  1. Bill Howland says:

    Yeah Tom.

    I don’t get why Mercedes would chinse on the battery so. At least have a big battery as an option.

    1. Tom Moloughney says:

      Exactly. Just charge the customer for it and let them decide. I’ve just talked to too many people that have sworn the car will do 120 miles in “normal” driving and that doesn’t add up with a 28kWh pack. Either everyone is being untruthful or they have a larger pack that will be available at some point. We’ll see…

      1. Eric Loveday says:

        Make sense. You see, sometimes a “delay,” like we’ve seen a few times on this B-Class ED, is so that the automaker can respond to criticism made towards vehicles put out by competing automakers.

        For example – BMW i3 no longer has even close to 100 miles of range like BMW initially stated. It’s more like 85 miles now.

        M-B sees the flow of negativity towards the low range of the i3 and responds by delaying the B-Class ED while it works towards providing it with more range.

  2. Aaron says:

    Especially if Nissan is seriously looking to double the LEAF’s range, possibly with an optional battery upgrade.

  3. MTN Ranger says:

    If this is true, it is suspiciously similar to the i3 REx option price. I would pay $5k for 40 vs 28kWh.

  4. Suprise Cat says:

    40 kWh battery with NO quick charge? Have phun…

    1. Big Solar says:

      We’ve been driving all electric for over a year and a half and never needed quick charge. Where are you people going in these cars???

      1. Mikael says:

        Same places as we go with our normal car, to relatives, friends, airports, vacations etc.

        Anyway, it’s easy enough to put fast charging on an EV. It should be standard. Not optional, not unavaliable…standard.

        1. Mark says:

          Exactly Mikael. If not it is simply a city car. People don’t want that. Look at volt and leaf sales for proof.
          The tesla supercharger network is the game changer. Makes interstate travel practical and very easy with an EV. Other car companies will never build out a network for their EV’s. As the EV is a very small part of their car production and not worth the added cost for them.

        2. GSP says:

          Exactly. Being able to get a 20-30 minute fast charge is great if you need to do some unplanned driving around town. It is also great for taking trips to nearby towns. Every EV should have DC fast charge standard. Not optional, and certainly not unavailable.


          PS. Even if your driving patterns never require DC fast charging, the cost is minimal and it will help resale value.

      2. Josh says:

        Houston. I quick charge the Leaf 2 – 3 times a week.

        I need to quick charge twice to make it to and from Hobby Airport (Southwest Airlines) from my house.

    2. koz says:

      I drive a 40kwh battery car. It is fine for 99% of my driving and we have another electric car in the household that can go long distance when needed. 40kwh is not for long distance driving for the masses even with quick charging. The battery needs to be bigger for that. I have never and will likely never need quick charging for my 40 and my driving pattern is pretty normal.

    3. Unplugged says:

      Exactly. Tesla appears to insist that any batteries/motors it supplies not have DC fast charge capability. This handicaps any vehicle in comparison to Tesla. It is unacceptable and for that reason, I’m out.

      1. GSP says:

        Tesla execs have said not offering DC fast charging was Daimler’s choice, if I remember correctly.


        1. Of course, it’s the respective vehicle manufacturer’s choice whether to install a DC quick charge port. Tesla has no special control over that.

          The Tesla Battery Management System is already extremely well equipped to handle 2C charge rates (that means that a 28kW Mercedes car could optimally take 56kW while charging). That rate can be handled by any ANY of the currently available DC charge standards around the world. Obviously, since Daimler is a member of the Frankenplug consortium, and there is close to zero of those charge stations in the world, it wouldn’t offer much utility today.

          Of course, Toyota could have put a CHAdeMO port on the Tesla powered Rav4 EV (they are a founding member of CHAdeMO), but chose not to, also. There are now over 3500 of those stations around the world, with 550 in the USA and 1000 in Europe, and a sizable chunk of those are in California where the Rav4 EV is sold.

          There is no incentive to make a car go over “100 miles” or have any premium charging options for CARB-ZEV compliance, and Daimler / Mercedes Benz must comply staring with the 2015 model year. Any discussion about EV’s that overlook this is short sighted.

          Yes, I’m sure they will say almost anything to sell cars; 200km (124 miles)?, sure!!! Nationwide sales, sure (heck, Ford sells the Focus EV nationwide and in Europe). How many will be sold outside of regulatory required states? Not very many. It’s just reality, folks.

          The B-Class ED is the car that will meet the compliance requirement. Of course they will offer it in other CARB states; ultimately, they will have to due to changing rules. Toyota didn’t have to sell outside California with their compliance car for two reasons:

          1) They have been subject to CARB-ZEV compliance with GM, Ford, Honda, Fiat/Chrysler and Nissan starting in 2012, not 2015.

          2) The traveling provision of credits is in place between CARB states, meaning Toyota absolutely can and does only sell in California. That will change in the future:

          Auto manufacturer’s Oct 19, 2012 request to EPA for waiver from CARB:

          “It is highly unlikely that the required infrastructure and the level of consumer demand for ZEVs will be sufficient by MY2018 in either California or in the individual Section 177 States to support the ZEV sales requirements mandated by CARB. EPA should therefore deny, at the present time, California’s waiver request for the ZEV program for these model years. During the interim, Global Automakers and the Alliance believe that California and EPA, with full auto industry participation, should implement a review for the ZEV program similar to the mid-term review process adopted under the federal GHG and CAFE regulations for MYs2017 through 2025.”

          That’s a whole lot of gobbled igloo to say, “keep the traveling provision so we can only sell cars in California at the minimum number, and not sell any in the other CARB states.”

          The CARB state coalition – California, New York, Massachusetts, Oregon, Vermont, Maryland, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

          The eight states combined account for 23 percent of U.S. vehicle sales, according to California’s Air Resources Board.

  5. Anton Wahlman says:

    Based on the background described in the article, I don’t arrive at the same conclusion. Offering multiple battery sizes requires considerable engineering planning and resources. I don’t see any evidence that this car has been infused with level of flexibility, in turn a function of planning and engineering resources. The fact that the manufacturer, long after having planned the car a few years ago, in retrospect regrets that it didn’t make a longer-range EV, is a different story.

    1. OK the “gentleman’s bet” is on then! 🙂

      1. I’ll bet you $1000, and put it in escrow. In addition, the loser has to wear a lampshade on his head for a full day.

        My bet: Like virtually every compliance offering, the Mercedes B-Class ED will have the minimum battery to jump the “100 mile” hurdle for three CARB-ZEV credits per vehicle. No more. No optional batteries packs for longer range. The battery they use will be substantially the 28kWh one already known.

        This bet is valid upon the public sale of the first Mercedes B-Class ED in the USA.

  6. Anton Wahlman says:

    I don’t see any evidence for a longer-range Mercedes pure EV, namely this B-Class, other than the fact that perhaps someone at Mercedes in retrospect regrets not having engineered such a version. I’m sure there are lots of people in the auto industry as a whole who regret that they back in 2008 or 2007 didn’t start to engineer the equivalent of a Tesla Model S.

    1. They were all sure that Tesla would fail. Very sure.

      I remember the snicker from a senior VW executive who completely dismissed Tesla as an entity. There were plenty of others, too.

  7. Mr. M says:

    I been thinking a lot how the b.class want to get 100+ miles. The b-class, as mentioned by severall german websites has 230 km max range, normal is 200 km but via an max range/charge button you get more. I suposse it uses the full 28 kwh if you like. 230 km necd translates to around 99 miles epa if you use leaf specs. Greetings, but i dont think it has more battery… 🙁

  8. Mr. M says:

    I been thinking a lot how the b.class want to get 100+ miles. The b-class, as mentioned by severall german websites has 230 km max range, normal is 200 km but via an max range/charge button you get more. I suposse it uses the full 28 kwh if you like. 230 km necd translates to around 99 miles epa if you use leaf specs. Greetings, but i dont think it has more battery… Sadly

  9. vdiv says:

    When we talked to the two guys that were driving a B-class ED up on the East Coast back in August they were very shy to say anything about the battery capacity or the range of the car. If the B-Class ED gas conversion ends up with a significantly longer range than the purpose-built i3 it will be a real slap in the face for BMW.

    1. I don’t see it as a slap. If in fact the efficiency was equal to the i3 then that would be a slap. If the B-Class does offer an optional 38-40kWh battery and it can go 115-125 miles per charge then I think it will be popular, but they haven’t really achieved anything other than stuffing a lot of batteries in a converted gas car. That’s not to say I wouldn’t like it and recommend it, it’s just not any kind of indication that they “out engineered” BMW. If BMW wanted to it wouldn’t have been to hard to put 10 more kWh’s in the i3. Many if us here wish they did but that’s not happening. For now BMW seems to believe the range extender is a better option for people that want to cover long distances and in fact the i3 is much better suited than even a 40kWh B-Class to do long journeys. It’s good to have options so I do hope this extended-range B-Class comes to fruition.

      1. koz says:

        True that there is a LOT more engineering in the i3 and the efficiencies won’t be close since the weights won’t be close. That said, I don’t think Joe Shmoe will care that much how much engineering went into either. They likely will and should care how the ranges fit their needs. Yes, the i3 with range extender can go farther but not much without limitations that that average Joe won’t tolerate. The best advantage of the i3 range extender IMO is that it will allow owners to use 100% of their battery on a regular basis if they choose to without worries of adverse conditions (a.k.a range anxiety). This is one reason why the Volt’s average electric miles per car are so close to the Leaf’s.

  10. James says:

    Oh the wheels are turning at all the major auto brands, foreign and domestic.

    Lincoln definitely needs a shot in the arm, as it’s popularity is waning – how many
    luxe divisions can Ford dump? Cadillac has some life as long as gasoline prices
    are relatively low, and folks at all the brands are praying and lobbying for the
    Keystone Joke, er….pipeline. Maybe we can frack through Virginia and just do
    most states where lots of people just won’t notice the toxic water for awhile…
    Or maybe we can just look the other way whilst Putin and Medvedev have their
    way in Ukraine – to keep our O.P.E.C. pals satisfied a bit longer….

    Mercedes has been sandbagging for so long, all it really does is try to set itself
    up JUST-IN-CASE this electric thing gets out of hand. So far, it’s toss a few bucks
    Tesla’s way and keep a foot in the door. This B Class is COMPLIANCE CAR 101.
    The “insiders” nabbed for this article amount to some guys testing a B-Classe Electric
    who stopped by the restaurant for a charge and some hearsay and third/fourth party
    talk. Not exactly “news” or even more than rumors, really. People say things. I’m
    sure engineers road testing cars say things also. Not much weight in that.

    In other words, this is just rumor-mill stuff…kind of like TMZ for EVs.

    Sure, Mercedes could add battery, or do any number of things. They’ve positioned
    themselves with some business relationship with Tesla. They know, like all others
    that a true EV success needs proprietary bodywork ( Prius ) for sales success –
    it needs it’s own identity. I’m SO TIRED of these compliance car versions of
    production models already extant.

    BMW’s i3 is – at least – a stand-alone vehicle. I’ll give it that. BMW has spent
    a lot of money and time originating a plastic mold system with carbon sandwich
    they can pass off as “carbon fiber”. It’s a good plan as long as the cars are safe,
    which we’ll have to wait and see….But so far, it looks positive. Those CFRP
    panels are due to show up in the 7 Series, and then I’m sure, show up in
    all those NEW BMW CUVs they keep pumping out for our market. BMW
    has at least given the world a vision of what an EV commuter can be.

    Believe, me, it all hangs on Tesla. Automakers are watching now, and news
    of the Gigafactory has eyebrows raised. REALLY RAISED. If Tesla can pull
    it off – the game is ON! Rather than piddling around, like Mercedes, and
    all the others, the top will blow off and we’ll see real proprietary EVs in all
    price ranges sold all over. The floodgates will open. This obviously means
    Teslas didn’t get sabotaged by oil lobbyists in D.C. , nor Arabs place land mines
    under them, or short-circuiting them for cash. This would mean Model E
    came out and sold big. Forced to move – the price per kwh of lithium batteries
    would plummet and we would have the choices we need.

    If you’ve ever watched one of those bicycle track races, where most of the race,
    the competitors on the high-bank wooden track just diddle around, watching
    each other – lap after lap – until suddenly, BAM! One rider will surge and all
    others follow him, draft him and try to make the pass for the win. This is
    exactly what is happening in the EV world. Tesla is the guy leading out,
    and lapping the track – all others lay in wait, watching, and watching… Many
    times those lagging behind get caught with their pants down – and the leader
    just sprints away for the victory. This is what I am hoping happens with
    American-made Tesla. I hope all those foreign brands and the big American
    behemoths GM, Ford and Italian Chrysler get shown the door. We do
    need all of them in, as competition makes life good.

  11. Mike I says:

    The possibility of a larger battery is promising, but in order to “separate themselves from the pack” they need to have DC Fast Charge. I bought a RAV4 EV knowing it would probably never leave the SF Bay Area. I’m OK with that, but I’m not going to replace it until the next vehicle can take the family to Tahoe or LA. Any further than that, we would fly.

    1. James says:

      “separate themselves from the pack”…. L 🙂 L. I’m going to have to use that one!

      Or – “set themselves apart from the pack”, or….. “Is LG the leader of the pack?!”…

      etc. etc. etc. … OK, I’m done now…. 🙂

      1. James says:

        My name is TOMMY JOYCE! … I’ll be back at 11… just toss the tip
        in the tip jar, thank you!

  12. George CH says:

    It intresting to see how a lot of people miss to see that the A-Class, B-Class, WV UP!, Golf Models had been developed with a so called “Sandwich-Boden” where a potential Battery can be placed…. check the trunk space – it is almost not compromized like it is the case with true conversion (e.g. Focus). As much as I like Nissan and their belief in EVs, their Leaf seems more of a conversion (Versa) trunk-wise…. The germans play it safe – wait for demand and act if needed – Battery supply might fire back on them one day….luckily Tesla is here move things forward 😉

    1. pjwood says:

      The Germans very unsafely put their chips on diesel, because they do not understand” the US market.

    2. David says:

      The LEAF doesn’t share much w the Versa. Wheelbase is closer to the Sentra then Versa.
      Folks don’t give Nissan enough credit.

  13. Cavaron says:

    Could it be possible that the 28kwh are the usable battery size and that it has 2-4kwh of additional unusable capacity like the Volt, which uses about 14 of it’s 16kwh? Could make sense in regard to the smaller cycle life of the Tesla cells, which would be of no concern in a large Tesla pack, but could drop the lifetime far under 8-10 years in a smaller pack if you cycle it close to 100% on regular bases. Also 22-23 usable kwh to 28kwh usable would be an improvement of about 23%, which would translate in an 84 to 104 range increase. Motor and regen could be more efficent (think highway) too.

    1. pjwood says:

      Volt uses just 10, or 10.5, of its 16, or 16.5kwh

      1. Bonaire says:

        I have seen up to 52 miles using my V>olt’s measly 10.4 kWh allowed range. In good weather, of course.

    2. If the 28kWh is usable, then the range at 250 watthours per mile (4 miles per kWh) is 112 miles.

      That’s very believable, and achievable at about 100km / 62mph down the highway.

      1. miimura says:

        Yes, it may be possible to push the car to go that far, but that’s not what the window sticker or the EPA will say.
        The EPA efficiency number on the RAV4 EV sticker is 44kWh/100mi. That is only 2.27mi/kWh. Your range chart says the RAV4 EV can do 3.4mi/kWh at steady 65mph. Also, most people can get 3mi/kWh in the RAV without even trying hard.

        I maintain that the B-Class EV will have an EPA range of less than 90 miles on the window sticker.

  14. Ed says:

    Well since the wheelbase measurements are similar, how hard would it be for Tesla to use 40 kwh packs initially designed for the RAV4 in the B Class?

    I could see MB over engineering the pack life by using software to only make 80% of the pack available and make the customer manually unlock the extra 4 kwh before each charge session.

    Another tin hat theory is that this partnership with MB led to the cancellation of the 40 kwh Model S due to the size of the Mercedes order.

    1. James says:

      I’m still fascinated by the idea of a range-extender that’s a battery pack.

      You can keep your usual buffer in the main pack, but for those long drives,
      or times when an emergency calls – you tap into the extra pack for distance.
      The additional pack could even be a different, faster-charging chemistry/
      density with small buffer. Make the small pack swappable, and an option at
      purchase. i3 could have a swappable battery instead of that ungainly 2 cylinder ICE
      in that gap below the floor.

      It sure makes more sense for me to change out the relatively small extender
      pack ( or packs ) at smaller expense, than think about replacing the main
      drive pack! No ICE range extender needed.

  15. acevolt says:

    It seems like a simple thing to do by just swapping out existing cells. Upgrade from a UR18650E to a UR18650F upgrades each cell from 2150mAh to 2600 mAh for the same physical size

    I think this is how Tesla does it.

  16. Spec9 says:

    Isn’t this Mercedes B class car literally a Tesla? (Built with a Tesla drivetrain.)

    1. Like the Toyota Rav4 EV, the Mercedes B-Class ED shares the Model S drive train and Tesla designed battery pack (although, different cheaper cells are likely used).

  17. Bonaire says:

    Kia Soul EV is looking to be a 120 mile range car. Looking pretty good. If priced right, should outsell the Leaf if they sell it in 48-50 states.

    1. Mikael says:

      Rather 90 mile. The Leaf is a 110 miles car according to NECD where the Soul will be a 120 miles car.

      1. All LEAFs will drive about 80-ish miles of REAL WORLD range when at 62mph (100km) ground speed on a level, no wind, hard surface roadway with no heater and a new condition battery at 70F/20C or above temperature. The Kia Soul EV will be almost exactly the same.

        Here the LEAF official government rated range worldwide:

        124 miles = 200km Japan “EPA” rating for 2011-2012
        142 miles = 228km Japan “EPA” for 2013

        109 miles = 175km UK / Euro 2011-2012
        124 miles = 199km UK / Euro 2013-2014

        73 miles = EPA-USA 2011-2012
        75 miles = EPA-USA 2013 with 66 EPA miles for 80% and 84 EPA miles for 100%
        84 miles = EPA-USA 2014

        With the impending release of the 2013 LEAF, Nissan was suggesting to the press that a 2013 LEAF might go 250km (155 miles). Of course, the press just laps that up, as do EV advocates and EV consumers sometimes!

        The reality is that any model year LEAF will drive about 80-ish miles of range autonomy at 100km (62mph) on a dry, level, hard surface road with no wind or climate control, and without cabin climate control. The most important detail is the battery must be in like like new condition at 70F / 20C temperature or higher, and that will be true of the Soul EV.

  18. AC says:

    What if they put the 40 pack in the car and reached an agreement to use the Tesla superchargers?

    Now we’re talking.

    1. GSP says:

      That would be awesome, and a very compelling reason to buy the Mercedes.


  19. Unplugged says:

    Without DC fast charge capability, this car should be a no-sale for most people. This is especially true with a larger battery.

    1. Oh, I don’t believe this. The problem is the market becomes extremely limited, which is fine for a converted car built for regulatory reasons in minimum quantity.

    2. miimura says:

      I’m sure M-B will be satisfied with compliance state sales less than 1,000 per year. They should be able to find that many customers.

  20. Bill says:

    The Leaf will have a real world range of 150 miles by fall 2014 to spring 2015. MB is a premium vehicle that can’t be sold successfully at double the price with less capability. The BMW doesn’t matter as it is a city car while the MB B-class is far more usable if it had a decent range. Right now we are targeted to replace our Camry Hybrid with the 150 mile Leaf unless MB announces something competitive.