The Mercedes-Benz G-Class isn't really the first vehicle to come to mind when it comes to "green vehicles," especially with the hulking G 63 AMG 6x6 and G500 4x4 Squared variants lurking around out there terrorizing the planet. Thanks to Austrian battery specialist Kreisel Electric, though, there's a little more green in the G. With the Hahnenkamm ski race as its backdrop, and Arnold Schwarzenegger as a spokesman, the company revealed its fully electrified G-Class, and it might just be the most convincing battery-powered off-road 4x4 out there.
In an event that played out like a "who's who, what's what" of famous stuff from Austria – the Graz-built G-Class, Kitzbühel's world famous Hahnenkamm and Schwarzenegger – Kreisel pulled the cloth off its electric G-Class, a big, black block perfectly juxtaposed with the soft, white snow. Kreisel specializes in battery technology for automotive, industrial and residential applications, and the G-Class is its latest experiment.
Kreisel electrified the G 350 d by pulling out the engine and transmission and fitting dual electric motors with reduction gears to the transfer gearbox. It split the 1,124-lb (510-kg) 80-kWh battery up around the vehicle, putting modules under the hood, down low, and in the rear in place of the gas tank. By approaching the conversion in this way, the company was able to finish up in about two months while leaving the look of the G-Class virtually unchanged, save for the big Kreisel logo on the grille.
Kreisel says its electric, all-wheel-drive G-wagen can put out up to 483 hp, travel up to 186 miles (300 km) per charge and hit a top speed of 113 mph (183 km/h). The torquey electric powertrain also cuts three seconds off the 0-62 mph (100 km/h) time, getting it down to 5.6 seconds.
You might not be able to chuck a couple of jerry cans in back and wander into the wild for hundreds upon hundreds of miles, but Kreisel believes the conversion will approach shorter off-road missions with the same level of off-road capability and gradability as the regular G 350 d.
Inside, Kreisel left the G 350 mostly stock but redesigned the instruments in support of the electric powertrain. When the battery level drops off, 150 kW fast-charging technology will get it back to 80 percent in about 25 minutes.
As for his part, Schwarzenegger is more than just a movie star face and pile of muscle to spruce up the Kreisel name. As the company explains, it was conversations with the movie star, former California governor and G-Class enthusiast that led to the conceptualization and creation of the electric G.
Although, given the other projects Kreisel has experimented with since 2014, including an electric Porsche Panamera, VW Transporter and Mercedes Sprinter, it seems likely that it would have found its way to G-Class, with or without Arnold. But we reckon the company was more than happy to do it "with."
"To me, with the electric version of this fantastic car, a dream has become true," Schwarzenegger said at the debut. "The initial test drive was a real pleasure. The Kreisel is incredibly sporty and perfectly benefits from the advantages e-mobility has to offer. I really look forward to the following test runs and the further development in California."
Schwarzenegger isn't just BSing for the cameras. According to Kreisel's press release, he will continue to be involved in the electric G-Class's testing and development, working alongside Kreisel staff in Southern California.
Unfortunately, it doesn't appear that Kreisel has any plans to sell a full electric G-Class to customers. It describes it as a "unique prototype" before explaining that it's talking to partner companies about putting its battery technology into their mass-produced cars. So unless one of those companies is Mercedes, and one of those cars is a G-Class, don't expect to see this one on your local 4x4 trail or in the valet parking queue at your favorite fine dining hotspot.
The Kreisel electric G-Class is far from the first electrified version of a 4x4 icon we've seen, but it is the most capable and well-rounded. In the past we've covered the electric Jeep Grand Cherokee from AMP and the electric Defender from Land Rover. We've also read a little about an electric Land Cruiser project in Germany. Maybe one day, off-road tracks and trails will fill with some of these quiet, zero-emissions electric utility vehicles ... it just won't be today.