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