Merc prepares for Tesla war

Seven new models due to arrive by 2025, and the first is an SUV

RYAN LEWIS

MERCEDES-BENZ is rushing towards a Tesla-fighting electric future and estimates that up to 25 percent of its sales will come from the new EQ sub-brand announced at the recent Paris motor show.

The Generation EQ concept seven-seat SUV hints at the first of at least seven Benz-branded battery cars to come by 2025.

Mercedes’ head of car development, Thomas Weber, says the tipping point is approaching where battery advancements will allow its new vehicles to strike the right balance of affordability, capability and performance.

Generation EQ (which stands for ‘electric intelligence’) previews a new electric architecture. Its stackable battery technology allows for a range of up to 500km, which Weber says is just the beginning. Heady outputs of 300kW and 700Nm reflect a desire to build electric cars that don’t compromise performance.

“What we are going for is a completely flexible electric architecture, as modular as possible, with all-wheel drive and less than five seconds to 100km/h,” Weber said.

“More than in most of our series production cars, driving performance will be key. And that shows a new idea.

“At the start, going electric was only an environmental topic, but we are looking for essentially the best combination of performance and efficiency.

“If that’s possible, the shift from a conventional car to a new type of vehicle really can start.”

Benz has invested ¤1 billion ($A1.5b) in its own battery plant.

Weber says energy density has doubled in the past five years over the previous five years prior, and there’s more to come.

“There is still uncertainty around pricing. Will customers really jump? Will they like it?

In the meantime the [emission] regulations are even tougher.

“We believe this forecast of 15-25 percent EVs is linked to a cost development and an energy density development, which gives us a chance to announce this vehicle can be offered in the same price range as a fully loaded GLC with a conventional drivetrain.”

Today, that’s about $80K.

Weber even managed a glancing blow at EV darling Tesla.

“Such a vehicle from another famous American company is $100-150K, so immediately you are jumping into a completely different price range.

“Volume expectation is linked to sensational design, perfect features, but also price.”

Significantly, EQ models will be produced in existing Benz manufacturing facilities, eliminating the production bottleneck facing Tesla. y es me C la.

Infrastructure holds Australia back

Carmakers’ global electric dreams could fall flat in Australia if governments don’t encourage the uptake of rechargeable cars – even if it’s as basic as assisting with creating a viable fast-charging network.

Countries such as the US and Norway have seen a big take-up in hybrid and electric technology off the back of generous incentives, with Norway even seeing the Nissan Leaf top the sales charts in some months.

Yet governments here all but ignore alternative energies, so electric and hybrid vehicles (which have been available for more than 15 years) account for a tiny percentage of our market – only 1.1 percent this year. on ye

Numbers game

Mercedes isn’t the only carmaker talking of ramping up electric quickly – although it is Europe more broadly leading the, er, charge.

Audi says it will launch its Q6 e-Tron electric SUV in about 2018, while BMW believes 2020 is a tipping point for the EV industry and is plotting a new range of EVs, with the rumoured i5 likely to spearhead its push. Jaguar Land Rover, too, has EVs in the pipeline. Fresh from announcing it will compete in the Formula E electric race series, CEO Ralf Speck says there is “more to come” with electric cars, with an electric SUV, codenamed X590, high on the hit list. But the real gamechanger could be VW’s ID, due in 2020. The circa-$35,000 Golf-size hatch (above) will have a 600km range and 125kW of power, making it a viable alternative to premium small cars.