In spite of this year’s collection of distracting concepts at the 2013 New York Auto Show, there were in fact a few real world surprises. One concept that will actually see the light of day is Mercedes Benz’ new B-Class electric drive – the German manufacturer’s latest foray into the green market.
To be launched first in the USA at the beginning of 2014, this new-generation electric is all electric with no hybrid elements in sight. Mercedes boasts the wee B-Class as a “premium luxury” experience, funny given the wee B is still considered a subcompact runabout to many. Based on the traditional B-Class the new electric carries with it the usual Mercedes level of build and quality.
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The car should have no trouble making its way about Manhattan with electrics generating over 100 kW (134 hp) of power and 310 Nm (228.5 lb.ft) of torque. Mercedes reports power response similar to a 3.0 liter gas engine. Hardly a Tesla in disguise the B will still get from 0-60 mph (96.5 km/h) in just under 10 seconds. Okay so it’s not that quick, but at $4.50/gallon for regular gas I’m sure one would forgive the performance compromise.
Located in the B-Class’s so-called "Energy Space" in the underfloor is the lithium-ion battery providing the car’s energy. Thanks to this configuration the electric retains the same storage and passenger space as the gassy version.
Because no one wants to get too crazy, Mercedes has limited the car’s maximum speed to 100 mph (160 km/h). This restriction is designed to enhance range than limit the drivers need for speed. Dependent on the driver’s habits Mercedes reports a mileage range of roughly 115 miles (200 km). This range is seen as optimal for inner city commuting and puttering about.
According to Mercedes the B-Class electric can be recharged via a household power outlet (240 V/40 A) in less than 2 hours, with enough range for 60 miles (100 km). Forward energies are recouped and restored to the system through energies created during deceleration and braking. These normally unused energies are then converted back into electricity and put back into the car’s power grid.
Stylistically the car is your typical 5 door sport-back. Sporting Benz’ signature grille work and headlight treatment the car is for the most part just another compact alternative. With the charging socket inconspicuously hidden behind the charging flap, the only difference externally is the oversized "electric drive" typography on the back hatch.
But being a Mercedes there is an expectation of finish and amenities. On the technological front the Electric B comes standard with the Audio 20 system, a 147 mm (5.8 in) color screen, a twin tuner, an MP3-capable CD player with USB connectivity. Navigational issues are managed by a Becker® MAP PILOT while the COMAND multimedia system handles the interweb duties. The usual array of safety measures are also present throughout the B-Class electric.
Monitoring power usage/availability is done via a center-mounted display and gauge, located to the right of the speedometer. When power is being used a pointer rises in a clockwise direction from the green to the red area. When the car is being recharged via braking and deceleration the needle drops back below the zero line. A simple yet effective method of providing energy information at a glance.
Remote monitoring and smartphone inputs are also one of the B-Class' tricks. Current range and charge can be monitored by an app while a nav setting showing possible best routes, and charging locations are in place to help reduce travel anxiety.
The new B-Class Electric should be available in the USA early 2014. European markets will see the release shortly thereafter.
Source: Mercedes BenzView gallery - 8 images