Mercedes-Benz parent company Daimler and BMW are typically seen facing off against each other to win the hearts, minds and wallets of luxury car buyers. However, the challenges of developing a mass-produced electric car have inspired the two pillars of German luxury to put aside their rivalry and team up on a city car project.
To be fair, the Visio.M project goes well beyond BMW and Daimler. It's a team-up between more than a dozen players. The German Federal Ministry for Education and Research is providing nearly 11 million euros (US$14 million) in funding, while the Technical University of Munich (TUM), technology companies and other automakers will also be participating in the work.
You might think that a collaboration between those types of industry heavyweights was aimed at something super-ambitious like a 500-mile EV, but the Visio.M has its sights a little closer to Earth. The aim of the project is to develop a car that combines the light weight necessary for ample city driving capabilities with appropriate safety equipment.
"On the way to mass production of electric vehicles, there are still significant technological hurdles to overcome, " a press release announcing the project explains. "Previous small electric vehicles offer only a minimum level of vehicle safety and therefore are not mass-marketable. Electric cars that were derived from gasoline-powered models are usually too heavy and require large and expensive batteries."
The parties aim to make a vehicle with 15 kW (20 hp) of power and no more than 400 kg (880 lbs) of bulk at the curb. The car will also provide protection and safety features comparable to current gas vehicles. The project will use the TUM-developed Mute concept as its starting point, experimenting with new forms of mechanics, safety equipment and energy storage.
When we last saw it in the fall, the Mute concept used a 10 kWh lithium ion battery powering a 15 kW motor to up to 62 miles (100 km) of range and 74.5 mph (120 km/h) of speed. It weighed in at 1,102 lbs. (500 kg) and used a variety of innovative equipment, including a zinc-air range-extending system and a carbon-neutral ethanol radiator.
In addition to this joint project, both BMW and Mercedes-Benz are working on their own internal electric car programs. In 2013, BMW will debut the first models of its i line, and Mercedes plans to launch the SLS AMG E-Cell.
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