Taking direct aim at BMW's i3 electric vehicle, Mercedes-Benz announced its B-class Electric Drive will start at $42,375 when it goes on sale in July in 10 zero-emission vehicle states.
The BMW i3 costs just $100 less, at $42,275. Both prices include shipping. Deliveries of the i3 start in June.
Both models are the first electric-drive vehicles the brands will sell in the United States -- but the companies' approaches differ.
Mercedes-Benz took the five-door B-class compact sold in markets outside the United States and gave it an electric drivetrain. The front-wheel-drive B class shares an architecture with the CLA sedan and GLA crossover.
BMW built the i3 from the ground up as an electric car, giving it quirky styling to distinguish it from other models. BMW used recycled materials and carbon fiber for the passenger cell.
The B class will be a niche vehicle in the United States. Annual U.S. sales will be about 5,000 units, according to insiders. BMW has more ambitious plans for the i3, with estimated annual sales of 10,000-plus units for the United States, company executives have said.
The B-class Electric Drive will be rolled out nationwide in the coming year, but dealers outside the 10 ZEV states, which have lower emissions requirements, only can order the car when they have a customer, said Steve Cannon, CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA. They won't be able to stock B classes at their dealerships.
The national advertising tag line is "Zero Emission. Zero Compromise."
The i3 is the size of the Mini Cooper, with a length of 157.4 inches and width of 70 inches. It seats four and doesn't have full rear doors. The B class is 172 inches long and 71 inches wide. It seats five passengers and has full rear doors.
The B-class range is 85 miles on a full charge, and a gasoline range extender isn't available. The BMW i3 has a range of 80 to 100 miles.
The B class comes with standard features including a navigation system, LED daytime running lights, power front seats, collision prevention assist with adaptive brake assist and attention assist. It has a 28-kWh lithium ion battery developed by Tesla that takes two hours to charge using a 240-volt charger.