The race for supremacy in the luxury electric car marketplace got a little hotter yesterday with the announcement that the 2014 Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive will go on sale in the U.S. for $41,450 before subsidies later this year, putting it right next to the i3 in the affordability stakes.
Intentionally priced to match the smaller, four-seat i3 in the market place, the Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive is far more conventional in its looks than its fellow German rival. That’s due in part to its heritage: the BMW i3 was built from the ground-up as an electric car, something BMW likes to reference as a ‘clean sheet’ design ethos.
The B-Class Electric Drive however, is built upon the shoulders of Mercedes-Benz’s pre-existing B-Class hatchback. Already on sale in Europe with an array of gasoline and diesel engine options, the car has proven popular with buyers all around the world who want to combine the practicality of a compact MPV with the luxury you’d expect from the tri-point star.
Unlike the BMW i3, which comes in all-electric or range-extended i3 REx options, the Mercedes-Benz B-Class ED is only available as a 100 per cent electric car. But with a drivetrain engineered by Tesla Motors [NASDAQ:TSLA], it carries some serious pedigree.
Power comes from a 28 kilowatt-hour Tesla-engineered lithium-ion battery pack, mounted beneath the floor, driving a 132 kilowatt electric front-wheel drive electric motor. Unlike the Tesla Model S it shares some of its DNA with, the B-Class ED won’t sprint to 60 mph in under 5 seconds, but it will reach 60 in a respectable 7.9 seconds. That’s slightly slower than the 7.2 seconds the i3 EV takes, but is on par with the i3 REx.
Range is estimated to be somewhere in the region of 85 miles per charge, although the EPA has yet to give the B-Class ED an official range rating at the time of writing. While there’s no quick charge capability mentioned, Mercedes-Benz says a full charge from a Level 2 charging station will take 3.5 hours, while a 0-80 percent charge — enough for 60 miles of range — will take just two.
On paper, there’s very little to differentiate the BMW i3 and the Mercedes-Benz B-Class ED. They both start at the same price, have similar performance, similar on-board telematics and similar range. While the BMW i3 might grab some buyer’s attention with its range-extended REx variant, offering up to 200 miles of electric plus gasoline range combined, the extra cost of the range extender — the almost $4,000 on top of the base price — might sway some towards the more conventional Benz.
And that, ultimately, is your choice. Do you buy a five-seat all-electric version of an existing, convention-looking Mercedes-Benz made in collaboration with the darling of the electric car world, or do you opt for the more efficient, four-seat, carbon-fibre clad BMW which certainly stands out from the crowd?
If you’re in the market for a new electric car and you’re considering one or other of these two vehicles we’d love to hear from you. Either way though, the addition of the Mercedes-Benz into the market place should certainly fire up the luxury plug-in market a lot.
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