Daimler r&d chief Thomas Weber believes that the forthcoming Mercedes-Benz B-class Electric Drive will outpace the BMW i3 and other competitors in the fast-growing niche for battery-powered vehicles.
Weber spoke with Matthias Krust, a reporter at Automotive News' sibling publication Automobilwoche. The interview was translated from German.
Q: BMW is launching the i3, a model developed from the ground up as an electric vehicle with a carbon skin. Daimler currently has only the electric Smart.
A: That will change next year when we bring out the full-electric B-class Electric Drive. In all the key criteria, this vehicle will be at least as competitive as our competitors' models.
Why do you say so?
With the B class, we are bringing out an electric vehicle with five full-fledged seats and no constraints on trunk space. The B-class Electric Drive has a range of 200 kilometers (124 miles) -- and that's not just on paper. The 200 kilometers can be actually achieved in normal daily use. The car also has a top speed of 160 kph (100 mph). With torque of significantly more than 300 newton meters and with an acceleration of 0 to 62 mph in 7.9 seconds, we are offering sports car feeling in a compact car. And the batteries are fully charged in three hours.
Won't it be too expensive for normal families?
The price is not set, but we want to be extremely competitive here, too.
What are some of the key Mercedes developments in the car?
Two-stage energy recuperation is an important function that was developed by our engineers. And with the steering paddles, drivers can brake in two stages without having to operate the brakes with their feet. That offers an entirely new, very attractive driving experience.
How will the market launch of the B class take place?
The electric B class comes out first in the U.S. in the spring of 2014. Unlike Europe, there is a relatively significant demand for such vehicles.
The B-class Electric Drive really has no predecessor in the U.S. It is being positioned in that market as a multipurpose vehicle and will only be offered as an electric model.
Based on its design and the battery's location, the car is somewhat elevated, and the 18-inch wheels add to its height. So the B class almost looks like a compact SUV.