One of the best things about the growing EV community is that when an interesting, unusual, or yet-to-be-released EV appears in an unusual place, someone is there to snap a photograph.
That’s exactly what happened this week when BMW ActiveE driver George Betak spotted a pre-production Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive charging in the parking lot at Electronic Arts in Silicon Valley, California.
Supposedly delayed until 2015, this important plug-in competitor to the BMW i3 appears to be ready for mass production, or at least an official launch later this year.
“And I thought the spot was ICEd,” Joked Betak on Facebook. Like the ActiveE, the Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive looks just like the gasoline-based model it is based upon and, were the sighting in Europe — where the B-Class is an established, popular gasoline model — Betak could have been forgiven for thinking the car in front of him was powered by dead dinosaurs.
“The site (Electronic Arts) is about 2 miles from Autobahn Motors, a large Mercedes dealer in the Bay Area,” Betak told us earlier today. “It’s also about two miles from Volkswagen’s Electronics Research Lab. A few senior executives at Electronic Arts are really into EVs, and this looked like someone was given a manufacturer prototype to test drive for a bit.”
With a 130 kilowatt electric motor and a 28 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack, the Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive promises a range of around 115 miles per charge — although we should note at this point that it has yet to be given an official EPA rating. Heavier and larger than the BMW i3, the B-Class Electric Drive takes a little longer to reach 60 mph — 7.9 seconds versus the BMW’s 7.2 second time — but for families who are looking for a luxury plug-in that doesn’t look like a plug-in, the Benz will be the more obvious choice.
Like its sibling, the Smart ForTwo Electric Drive, the B-Class Electric Drive benefits from Benz’s drivetrain partnership with Tesla Motors. While the body of the B-Class is one hundred percent Benz, the bits that make this car go — including the motor, battery pack, controller circuitry and charging system — are one hundred percent Tesla.
That includes a 10 kilowatt on-board charger as standard, meaning a full charge from empty should take no more than a few hours when connected to a compatible J1772 charging station. Torque and performance however, has been detuned a little by Benz software, presumably in an attempt to maximise range.
Mercedes-Benz hasn’t yet announced pricing for the B-Class Electric Drive, but most experts say the luxury hatchback will command a retail figure somewhere around the $43,000 mark. This will make it a little more expensive than the base-model BMW i3, but noticeably cheaper than the base-model Tesla Model S.
Sadly, Betak wasn’t able to get a ride — or a better look — at the Benz B-Class inside, but its appearance without camouflage (albeit without its B-Class Electric Drive badges) tells us that Mercedes-Benz is just about ready to set final pricing, detail options, and gear up to an official launch. This contradicts earlier stories which claimed the car wouldn’t be making an appearance until the second half of 2014 as a 2015 model year.
And with the autoshow season just about to kick off however, we think it’s highly likely this sighting means we’ll be hearing about the 2015 B-Class Electric Drive sooner than we thought.
[Edit: We’ve just been told that EA’s offices are closed for the holidays, so the sighting at EA is probably just someone charging up at one of the six EV spaces. The question now on our minds is WHO? — if you know, leave your thoughts in the Comments below…]
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