MEDIA REVIEWS is a compilation of reviews and write-ups of test drives of various e-drive vehicles by the different authors and media. Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of EV World. Click the article title to expand the story.
Tesla 'Fanboy' Meets Mercedes Electric Car
Washington Post reporter and self-confessed 'Tesla fanboy' Vivek Wadwha is invited to test drive Mercedes-Benz's B-Class electric, priced nearly $30K less than the Model S, but offering only about one-third the driving range.
Washington Post 22 Aug 2014
When Mercedes-Benz contacted me last month to ask whether I would be interested in driving its new B-class electric, I thought they were either too sure of themselves or foolish. Why else would they ask a self-proclaimed Tesla fanboy to reconsider his “breakup” with them? In February 2013, I wrote that after driving my Model S, I couldn’t drive my Mercedes–Benz any more — it was like listening to an old cassette tape. I compared my Tesla to a supermodel working a Paris catwalk and the Porsches and Ferraris owned by my friends to supercharged lawn mowers.
But this e-mail was from a stodgy old German car company, not from a brash kid in Silicon Valley. So I decided to take them up on their offer.
My first reaction upon driving the car was that these people surely were smoking something if they thought I would trade in my Tesla for this four-door hatchback. It just didn’t have the acceleration or torque. It felt slow and small. But then I realized that wasn’t a fair comparison. They’re cars of different categories and prices. It wasn’t an either, or: this car was for a different market. The Mercedes public relations team had just been very creative in getting my attention.
The B-class electric is indeed a great small car. It is as quiet as a Tesla Model S; it drives with comfort and elegance. And it is relatively economical. The base price of the Mercedes is $41,450; the Tesla costs $69,900. (But all electric cars qualify for $10,000 tax rebates on those prices in the state of California.) Of course, you get a lot more in a Tesla, including a battery with twice the range, an Internet-connected dashboard, and an 8-year “infinite miles” warranty. But a Mercedes has its own old-world elegance.
The Mercedes is certainly better than the three other electric cars I have driven: the Nissan Leaf, the Toyota Prius, and the Chevrolet Volt. It’s also about $10,000 more expensive. But it’s much better than any Mercedes I have driven. It accelerates without hesitation, doesn’t have the deafening engine noise, and gives you excellent control of the car with its regenerative braking system. It surely helps that Tesla makes the Mercedes B-class motor, as well as its battery technology.
What most surprised me was that Mercedes underestimates the range of its battery. Its rated range is 85 miles. In the Tesla, I usually allow for 20 percent more consumption than the rated range, because I drive the car… like a Tesla (you can’t resist rapidly accelerating the car to the speed limit—it’s like getting a spaceship up to warp speed). In the Mercedes, I made a trip of 67 miles with 80 miles on the power gauge, and had 30 miles to spare. I drove in electron-conserving “E” mode because I was worried about running out of power, but I never get this type of efficiency when I drive in the similar “range mode” in the Tesla.
The real competitor to the B-class is likely to be the BMW i3—and a slew of other luxury cars to be released over the next couple of years. Every car maker is surely preparing for the inevitable future when electric engines replace the primitive internal-combustion engines that have too long driven our automobiles. Bart Herring, Mercedes–Benz U.S.A. general manager of product management believes there will be a transition period over a decade and there will be many choices of engines. But as he explained, you can expect that more and more “normal” cars in 2025-2030 will be battery-driven or hydrogen-fueled.
My bet is on electric batteries. Earlier this year, Tesla announced that it was building a “Gigafactory”—a gigantic $5 billion plant to produce 35GWh of battery storage a year (more than in all the lithium-ion batteries produced worldwide in 2013). Tesla set expectations that prices will drop by 30 percent when it starts ramping up production in 2017. The capability and range of batteries will undoubtedly increase significantly, and I expect that they will double their driving range and halve their cost by about 2020.
Even if fuel cell–based technologies win the race, electric motors will still rule the day. These technologies generate electricity as needed and allow for much faster charging than the Tesla type of vehicle does. Either way, we are going to see dramatic changes in the economics of the automobile industry. Electric cars will be cheaper, faster, and better in almost every way than internal-combustion alternatives. We will all be upgrading to clean technologies and enjoying driving our “spaceships that travel on land.”
Let me correct myself. I expect that our cars will be driving themselves…but that is a different story.
Mercedes B-Class Electric Is One Powerful Drive
2014 B-Class Electric Drive offers a 'a real-world range of 85 miles' and zero to 60 mph in 7.9 seconds.
Post Crescent 24 Jul 2014
The all-new 2014 B-Class Electric Drive features dynamic design, a premium interior and a powerful electric motor for emission-free mobility.
This allows for lively, effortless driving pleasure over a real-world range of 85 miles. In addition, the B-Class Electric Drive is digitally networked. Thanks to its connectivity, it can be conveniently checked and configured via the internet. The Mercedes-Benz electric sets clear standards in terms of comfort, quality and safety for up to five occupants.
The new B-Class Electric Drive surprises with an especially dynamic driving experience. It provides noticeably powerful acceleration, while gliding along quietly. The new B-Class Electric Drive is based on the conventionally powered B-Class, for which the current generation has become a bestseller since being launched in a number of countries in 2011. As an especially versatile vehicle concept, the B-Class with its innovative electric drive now allows additional environmental friendly capabilities to Mercedes standards.
Mercedes-Benz has collaborated with TESLA Motors to develop the electric B-Class. The two companies share many years of cooperation in the field of electric mobility. The battery for the predecessor model of the smart fortwo electric drive, for instance, came from TESLA. For the B-Class Electric Drive, Mercedes-Benz is once again leveraging the extensive know-how available from the electric car pioneer and is using the TESLA drive system in its own vehicle.
Power for the B-Class Electric Drive is generated by an electric motor which develops its maximum torque from the very first touch of the accelerator. This is approximately equivalent to the torque from a modern three-liter gasoline engine. The result is noticeably powerful acceleration from a standing start. The electrically driven B-Class drives from zero to 60 mph in 7.9 seconds.
The power supply to the electric drive is delivered via a high performance lithium-ion battery, which is compactly and safely housed in the "Energy Space" in the underfloor of the vehicle. Such intelligent packaging allows the five-seater to retain the B-Class's familiar spaciousness in both its interior and its luggage compartment. In the interests of optimizing range, the top speed is electronically limited to 100 mph.
The B-Class Electric Drive can be charged from any standard domestic power socket. For a range of 60 miles, the charging time at 240V is less than two hours. On the road, the electric drive itself makes its own contribution to a favorable energy balance by converting kinetic energy into electric current during coasting and braking, and feeds this energy into the battery.
The passenger cabin underscores the high standards of comfort typical of Mercedes-Benz. High-grade materials and finely textured surfaces, classy touches and precision workmanship make it clear that Mercedes-style electric drive is defined by high standards. The three large round center air vents with their uniquely styled cruciform nozzles add a sporty flair that contributes to the overall emotive design idiom of the interior. Positioned above the air vents and seemingly free-floating is the screen for the telematics system – a state-of-the-art eye-catcher in the cockpit.
In terms of information and communication systems, the electric B-Class offers levels of comfort and functionality that is customary of any Mercedes-Benz. The standard equipment package includes a head unit with 5.8 inch color display, twin tuner and MP3-Page 4 compatible CD player as well as USB port. The Becker® MAP PILOT is the standard navigation system while the COMAND multimedia system with internet access, navigation and LINGUATRONIC voice control is also optionally available.
The instrumentation of the B-Class Electric Drive is rounded off by functions that are specific to electric vehicles. One of the striking features is the power display in the right-hand circular instrument. The instrument pointer moves in a clockwise direction from the green zone towards the red zone, when full power is demanded by the driver. It drops back below the zero line when the vehicle is feeding energy into the battery through the recuperation feature.
Dimensions & specifications
Wheelbase: 106.2; overall length: 171.6; width: 70.3; height: 61.2
All vehicle measurements are in inches.
Engine: electric generator/28 kWh lithium-ion battery – 177 hp/231 lbs-ft of torque
Vehicle range: 85 miles
Top Speed: 100 mph
Zero-to-60 time: 7.9 seconds
REVIEW: Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric
Brad Molen contends that despite its Tesla-made electric drivetrain, the B-Class Electric's 28kWh battery pack does little to alleviate range anxiety.
Engadget 02 May 2014
I shouldn't be imagining the sound of crickets when test-driving a brand-new Mercedes, but that's exactly what happened to me this week with the company's B-Class Electric. In this case, however, it's actually a good thing: The new US-bound EV, which should be hitting Stateside this summer for $41,450, is practically quiet enough for me to hear the nocturnal insects while driving. It's not going to be the most stunning car on the road, but as the first full-electric vehicle from Mercedes to hit US show floors, it's got enough appeal and oomph to be worth taking a closer look at.
If the name sounds familiar, it's because it's based on the standard B-Class model, a compact vehicle currently featured in Europe. The Electric shares the same structural design, and is even built on the same assembly line. It's a front-wheel drive that comes equipped with a Tesla-made drivetrain and, as a result, offers 177 horsepower and plenty of torque.
Muscle's great, but the B-Class Electric sadly doesn't do much to reduce range anxiety. Boasting a 28kWh battery, the car has an estimated range of 85 miles on a full charge (compared to 100 on the BMW i3 and 103 on the RAV4), but you can at least get 60 miles if you leave it on a 240v charger for two hours; a full charge takes 3.5 hours. This likely isn't enough to satisfy any road-tripper, but it's ideal if you're not planning on leaving the city very often. As a sidenote, you won't be able to access Tesla's charging network, despite the company's influence on the car's drivetrain. (It can be charged from a standard 110v household charger, though this method will take between 28 and 30 hours.)
The car offers two modes: Economy and Sport. The former is focused on conserving power, so it takes longer to get it up to highway speeds; the latter gives you much more zippy acceleration off the line, and Mercedes says the B-Class Electric will get up to 60MPH in 7.9 seconds. And as I mentioned earlier, it manages to be punchy while staying incredibly smooth and quiet. During my 20-minute drive, I never felt like I had to compromise on comfort or utility by using an electric vehicle. However, in case you get in a really sporty mood, don't get any wild ideas -- the car's electronically limited to a max speed of 100MPH.
The B-Class Electric has a few different safety features (such as assistance for collision prevention, lane keeping, parking and blind spots), but one option that stands out is adaptive brake assist. This gives you three modes for braking, each with a different degree of kickback and energy regeneration. D+ coasts just like a regular automatic; D adds a little kickback to help you slow down faster without having to use your brakes; and D- is even stronger. This not only helps you brake more efficiently, but it also lets you boost power by converting kinetic energy into electric current, which ideally should add a few extra precious miles to your range. (This ought to be the most helpful if you're in the city and braking frequently.) There's a set of paddles on the back of the steering wheel you can use to switch back and forth between modes, and if you do it right, you could control the pace of your car this way if you're driving downhill.
Mercedes doesn't skimp on connectivity -- quite the opposite, in fact. In addition to the mbrace2 tech suite and DriveStyle setup, which adds iOS and Android compatibility to the 5.8-inch dashboard display through a special app (Pebble smartwatches are also compatible), it comes with remote monitoring features. You'll be able to access your car from a PC or smartphone to see how much of a charge it has or adjust the climate control a few minutes before you hop in the car. Overall, in terms of first impressions, Mercedes' first US attempt at an electric vehicle turned out pretty well.
Mercedes Prices B-Class Electric Car at $42,375US
2014 Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive will go on sale in the United States the summer of 2014, offering an estimated driving range of 85 miles (136 km).
Automobile Magazine 30 Apr 2014
Mercedes-Benz hasn't made a big a fuss over its upcoming B-Class Electric Drive like other companies have about their electric vehicles. Now, however, the automaker has revealed that the 2014 Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive will cost $42,375 with destination when it goes on sale in the U.S. this summer. It’s based on the B-Class European hatchback model and features an all-electric powertrain developed in partnership with Tesla. In Europe, Mercedes also sells the B-Class with standard gasoline and diesel engines.
The 2014 Mercedes-Benz B-Class will only be sold in the U.S. in this electric configuration, which uses a Tesla-developed electric motor that produces 177 hp and 251 lb-ft of torque. Mercedes says the car will reach 60 mph in 7.9 seconds. The 28 kWh lithium-ion battery pack makes for an estimated range of 85 miles on a single charge, which takes 3.5 hours to complete with a level 2, 40 amp charger.
Standard features for the 2014 Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive include navigation, power front seats, collision prevention assist, parking assist, and LED daytime running lights. Although Mercedes-Benz has not yet released option pricing, the B-Class will offer features like blind spot assist, lane keep assist, and Mercedes-Benz’s COMAND infotainment system with a larger, 7-inch screen as optional.
The 2014 Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive’s most direct rival is the 2014 BMW i3, which costs slightly less at $42,275 with destination. The i3 offers a similar amount of power from its electric motor and, like the B-Class, is expected to have a driving range of between 80 and 100 miles. What the BMW has that the Mercedes does not, though, is an optional two-cylinder range-extender gasoline engine that costs $3850 and adds a 2.4-gallon fuel tank, bringing the car’s total range to approximately 200 miles.
The 2014 Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive will be covered by an 8-year, 100,000-mile battery warranty along with no cost annual maintenance and roadside assistance. Buyers may also be eligible for a $7500 tax credit, which could make the car's effective sale price $34,875.
Mercedes-Benz has not yet released full information about the car’s 50-state rollout, but a Mercedes-Benz spokesperson told us to expect that the B-Class will go on sale first in California, Oregon, Massachusetts, New York, Vermont, Maryland, Connecticut, and Rhode Island before eventually reaching all 50 states by early 2015.
Meet Tesla's Competition: Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive
Popular Mechanics reporter gets to go for 30-minute spin on all-electric B-Class, which Tesla helped develop.
Popular Mechanics 27 Nov 2013
Tesla won’t have the luxury-EV market to itself much longer. Soon we’ll have a Porsche Panamera plug-in hybrid, BMW’s i3 city car, and the Audi A3 e-tron plug-in hybrid. And next summer Mercedes-Benz will join the group with a plug-in of its own, the B-Class Electric Drive.
If the B-Class looks unfamiliar, it’s probably because you don’t live in Europe or Canada. The model is a staple in those markets, thanks to its small footprint and roomy interior. The tall, compact wagon rides on a 106.7-inch wheelbase and is the perfect size for a small family. Despite tidy exterior dimensions, the five-passenger B-Class is about the same size as a midsize SUV on the inside. And behind the rear seat, there’s a good-size luggage hold with a two-tiered load floor.
Despite it’s small size, adapting the B-Class for EV duty wasn’t as difficult as one might imagine. That’s because from the beginning Mercedes designed the chassis to accommodate multiple powertrains, including pure-electric. And the Electric Drive is built right on the same assembly line as every other B-Class. The battery pack is well-integrated, riding almost transparently beneath the floor of the passenger cabin yet high enough to not impede ground clearance. Mercedes says the electric motor up front is the lowest point in the chassis.
Mercedes-Benz partnered with Tesla to develop the powertrain. It uses what amounts to a Mercedes-tuned version of the Model S traction module, 10-kw charger, and gearbox. The electric motor develops 251 lb-ft of torque and can thrust the B-Class to 60 mph in 7.9 seconds, and on to a top speed of 100 mph. Not bad, considering the 3929-pound EV is about 500 pounds heavier than the comparable diesel version.
The 28-keh battery pack is Tesla-sourced, and Mercedes says it delivers a cruising range of 115 miles. Of course, that range depends entirely on the driver’s right foot. Should the owner anticipate a longer trip, a button on the dash allows for a 15 percent boost in battery range. But frequent use of that extended-range mode will eventually degrade the pack more quickly than normal use. The pack requires just 2 hours on a 240-volt charger to get 60 miles of range, or 3.5 hours for a full charge. And, like most EVs today, the B-Class offers a suite of connected services that allows you to access the vehicle through your smartphone. You’ll be able to view stats such as state of charge and charge time remaining, and you’ll even be able to precondition the cabin before your trip with either heat or A/C, drawing energy right from the grid.
We got a chance to ride along with the engineers for a 30-minute loop near downtown Los Angeles. The most noticeable part of the B-Class is how roomy it is. And even with three of us aboard, the B-Class felt torquey and quick. You can easily break the tires loose at full throttle on an off-camber turn.
More importantly, the B-Class Electric Drive is whisper-quiet on the highway. Mercedes says it employed extensive noise countermeasures to ensure the electric B-Class is silent at speed. Paddle shifters on the steering column control the level of regenerative braking you get from the powertrain. With each pull of the paddles you can dial up more or less aggressive off-throttle regen from the brakes, depending on your needs. There are also two driving modes that deliver either a sportier (S mode) or more economical (E Mode) experience.
Mercedes says it will compete with the BMW i3 on price, with a target of around $40,000. And they say quite a number of luxury features will come standard, including navigation. We can’t wait to slide behind the wheel of the production Electric Drive.
B-Class Fuel Cell Drivers Share Their Experiences
Four current F-Cell lessees talk about their experiences leasing hydrogen-fueled electric cars.
AutoWeek 14 Aug 2013
We met in a Los Angeles gas station, directly under the landing lights of LAX's south runway, our conversation interrupted regularly by the Prattt & Whitney thrust of 757s and Super 80s. We could easily be the main characters in an espionage thriller, handing off secret documents at great personal risk.
But we're not. We're here because this is where you buy hydrogen and these guys want to talk about their hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles.
The meeting was arranged by Jin Takamura, a former auto industry analyst, PR guy and marketing executive and a reforming British car enthusiast (“I left the automotive business over 10 years ago so I can make more money and squander it on ridiculous English crap like an Escort Cosworth, Aston DB7 Vantage, Lotus Evora, original Range Rover and a Rover Sterling 827 SLi with 5-speed manual!!!” he said in an e-mail, the exclamation marks his.).
Also present is Ian Sanders, who retired after a career at Garrett Turbo; Loki Efaw, a bank vice president in charge of IT; and Heesoo Lee, a tech entrepreneur who owns Worklab CC, a collaborative coworking studio with everything from 3D printers to laser cutters for people who need to build all manner of prototypes. The common thread among this disparate crew is that all four guys are leasing Mercedes-Benz B-Class F-Cells. Takamura brought them together to show the press (i.e. us) that the future really does lie in hydrogen fuel cells.
They are not necessarily what you'd call zealots, they don't stop people in gas stations and try to convert them. Indeed, usually people stop them.
“They say, 'Hey, what is that thing?' ” Takamura said.
He explains to them about fuel cells, electric motors, hydrogen and the future of transportation. If he's a zealot, he is an articulate and patient one.
Indeed, patience is perhaps the most important quality for hydrogen fuel cell advocates. The old joke is that hydrogen fuel cells are the powertrain of the future, always have been and always will be.
“I remember reading a magazine article about them in 1963,” said Sanders. “I thought, 'That seems like an interesting idea.”
More and more carmakers are thinking so, too. Three cooperative agreements between the world's leading carmakers have sprung up this year: GM and Honda, Toyota and BMW and Daimler, Ford and Nissan have all announced cooperative programs aimed at reducing the cost and complexity of fuel cells.
As any high school physics student knows, fuel cells are expensive, at least right now, representing half the cost of any fuel cell electric vehicle. Of that half, one third is the price of the precious metals required to make the fuel cell stack separate the electricity from the hydrogen. The most precious of those metals is platinum. (Attention platinum-rich countries: prepare to be liberated!) Though press releases from companies you've never heard of come out weekly claiming to have solved the cheap fuel cell conundrum, the cost problem remains elusive.
Likewise the act of separating hydrogen molecules from all the other molecules to which it inherently clings is energy and cost-intensive. A fuel cell needs pure hydrogen to operate and to get that requires a lot of heat or electricity, processes that give off CO2 and other gasses.
Our four friends are aware that hydrogen isn't perfect, but they cite the cleaner sources of hydrogen, such as a Fountain Valley, Calif., sewage treatment plant that takes its methane gas and extracts the hydrogen from it.
“I'll drive out of my way to refuel there,” Lee said.
Using off-peak electricity to separate hydrogen through electrolysis could work, too. It's not simple.
And while the four B-Class F-Cell drivers appreciate the environmental benefits of hydrogen, there were more pressing reasons why they plunked down $599 a month for their leases.
“My Prius with the gold sticker was expiring,” said Efaw, referring to the stickers that allowed his high-efficiency Prius hybrid access to the carpool lane with only one occupant.
Since California tightened restrictions on carpool access, only greeen-sticker PHEVs and white-sticker zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) are allowed in with just one person aboard, making fuel cells look suddenly more attractive.
“I looked at the Clarity but didn't get it. Then I saw one of these, maybe it was Jin's, at a fueling station…”
“I get stalked all the time,” said Takamura.
With a fuel cell car they can each drive in the car pool lane solo, a huge perk in traffic-lousy LA.
So while there was that motivation to get into fuel cell cars in the first place, all four nonetheless see the fuel cell as a step much farther into the future than a pure electric powered by batteries.
“I was debating: CNG, EV, Model S,” said Efaw. “Then this opportunity came.”
“There was no range anxiety, no special outlet required at my house,” said Lee. “It felt like the next jump instead of being a bridge gap -- an EV driven by hydrogen.”
"I felt the fuel cell was the next step,” said Takamura, who has a Facebook page titled “Prius HA.” “You don't have to plug it in, you don't have to wait hours for it to recharge. I can get 200 miles range in a couple minutes.”
“Hybrids were a little bit different, a little bit greener, but they never captured my imagination,” said Sanderson.
“It [driving the F-Cell] is not much different from what I was used to driving,” said Efaw. “I enjoy it because it's less of a hassle [than an electric car].”
“Enjoy is a good word,” said Sanderson. “The Highlander [his other car] sits in the driveway, once in a while we start it to make sure it works.”
Takamura sees hydrogen fuel as inevitable.
“As the price per barrel of oil goes up, there's going to be an economic shift away from petroleum,” he said. “When petroleum retailers and manufacturers have nothing to sell, then they're going to say, 'What's next?”
But what about the pollution caused in refining, compressing and transporting hydrogen?
“You have that in petroleum production,” said Takamura. “Top Gear said the [Honda FCX] Clarity is the car of tomorrow because it's like the car of today. I haven't changed my driving habits at all.”
Of course, all four of these fuel cell enthusiasts live and work reasonably close to the six public hydrogen refueling stations currently operating in Southern California, which is a big part of their embrace of the technology.
“I believe it's the future,” said Efaw. “As we get more infrastructure we'll be able to drive longer distances.”
While there are only a couple hundred fuel cell vehicles in private hands now, more are planned. Honda, Toyota and Hyundai have said they want FCEVs in showrooms by 2015, while Daimler, Ford and Nissan have set 2017 as a goal for greater FCEV offerings.
These four drivers represent some of the first unrestricted hydrogen fuel cell vehicle leases, and they are all enthusiastic about the technology. Others will have other opinions, of course. Comment away below.
Mercedes-Benz Fuel Cell Cars Start World Drive
Trio of B-Class start 18,600 miles journey across four continents.
Bloomberg 31 Jan 2011
Daimler AG is sending fuel cell-powered Mercedes-Benz compacts on a 30,000-kilometer (18,600- mile) trip to show that the best days for the 125-year-old German company aren’t necessarily behind it.
Former Formula One champion Michael Schumacher and racing colleagues Nico Rosberg and David Coulthard started the four- continent journey from Stuttgart on the weekend. Three B-Class models are heading to Lisbon before crossing North America and Australia. The trip’s final leg takes them from Shanghai to Moscow and Stockholm before returning to Stuttgart early June.
Daimler, which packed fuel cells into the back of a delivery van to create the world’s first vehicle using that technology in 1994, is showcasing B-Class F-CELL to mark the invention of the first motor vehicles by founders Carl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler in 1886. Now under Chief Executive Officer Dieter Zetsche, the second-largest luxury-car maker is leaning on its past to take on Bayerische Motoren Werke AG and Volkswagen AG’s Audi.
“Daimler needs to regain some of its innovative edge, and fuel cells might help them do that,” said Philippe Houchois, a London-based analyst at UBS, who recommends buying the shares. “Daimler has pretty much been in the forefront on fuel cells, but they haven’t been very consistent.”
The event in Stuttgart, Germany, which kicks off a year- long celebration, was attended by about 1,400 guests including Chancellor Angela Merkel and former tennis star Boris Becker.
Actor Clint Eastwood and Google Inc. CEO Eric Schmidt congratulated Daimler via video, while performers suspended on wires ran vertically across giant video screens displaying images of the automotive past and possible future.
Shares of Daimler, which is also the world’s largest truckmaker, have risen 69 percent in the past 12 months, trailing the 93 percent gain by Munich-based BMW. Wolfsburg, Germany-based VW, Europe’s biggest carmaker, more than doubled in the same period.
Daimler, which received a patent related to its plans to produce lithium-ion batteries at the celebration, is trying to regain its position as an automotive leader after wild swings in strategy in recent decades.
In the 80s and early 90s, under CEO Edzard Reuter, the company sought to diversify into electronics, aviation, and computer services, purchasing electronics company AEG and setting up aerospace unit Dasa. Those efforts were then largely undone under Juergen Schrempp, who sought to create a global automaker with the merger with Chrysler LLC in the U.S. and the integration with Japan’s Mitsubishi Motors Corp.
Zetsche, who ran Chrysler from 2000 to 2005 and took over the top job at Daimler from Schrempp in 2006, handed control of the Auburn Hills, Michigan-based automaker to Cerberus Capital Management LP in May 2007. Fiat SpA now controls 25 percent of Chrysler, following the U.S. manufacturer’s 2009 bankruptcy reorganization.
“Mercedes was once the most sought-after automotive brand, but Daimler lost sight of its strengths by trying to become a technology company and then a global automaker,” said Wolfgang Meinig, head of Forschungsstelle Automobilwirtschaft, an independent research institute in Bamberg, Germany. “Those strategic shifts were huge mistakes, and as a result, the Mercedes star has lost some of its shine.”
Fuel cells create electricity through the chemical reaction that creates water from hydrogen and oxygen. The technology has been hampered by the difficulty of storing and moving hydrogen and by costs of manufacturing the membranes that capture the electron in the reaction. Daimler has invested more than 1 billion euros ($1.4 billion) in fuel-cell technology.
“We know that the technology works, but we’re not going to be able to buy one of these vehicles any time soon,” said Al Bedwell, an analyst with J.D. Power and Associates in Oxford, England. The current cost of producing a fuel cell car could run into millions of euros, he said.
Daimler is leasing the B-Class F-CELL for 950 euros a month for 36 months. The company advertises lease rates on the conventional model for 294 euros. The fuel-cell vehicle, which accelerates to 100 kilometers (62 miles) per hour in 11.4 seconds, 1.2 seconds slower than the gasoline-powered by B200, was first delivered to customers in December. The manufacturer plans to build 200 B-Class F-CELLs and will also start delivering about 30 fuel-cell buses to Hamburg’s public transit system in the coming months.
The current B-Class version sandwiches the equipment under the floor and, unlike past versions, can start in freezing temperatures. The B-Class F-CELL has a range of about 400 kilometers (248 miles) on a full tank, more than double the Nissan Leaf’s 100 miles.
The Mercedes-Benz maker owns a majority stake in Automotive Fuel Cell Corp., a joint venture with Ford Motor Co. and Ballard Power Systems Inc. Other automakers are also active in fuel-cell research. Honda Motor Co. leases a few dozen FCX Clarity sedans to Los Angeles-area drivers.
Doubts about the long-term viability of hybrids and the limited range of battery-powered cars have increased interest in fuel-cell research after stalling a few years ago, said Jean- Francois Tremblay, an analyst with Ernst & Young in Montreal. Efforts in Germany, Japan, and California to set up hydrogen fueling stations offers prospects for making fuel cells viable.
“This unique round-the-globe trip with customer-ready fuel-cell vehicles shows that we have sufficient pioneer spirit for at least another 125 years,” CEO Zetsche said at the event. “We’re an ambitious company and have a lot planned.”
Mercedes Fuel Cell Car Aims to Circle World in 125 Days
F-CELL World Drive B-Class sedan will be supplied by Linde AG at pre-planned refueling stops in 14 countries.
IMPD.net 20 Jan 2011
Mercedes-Benz has announced that it will circumnavigate the world using the first series-produced fuel cell vehicle, the B-Class F-CELL, at the end of January 2011.
The overarching ambition of the F-CELL World Drive is to demonstrate the efficiency and suitability for everyday use of fuel cell technology, the company explained. Added to this, the event will form part of a broader campaign geared towards the development of a global hydrogen filling station network.
While the vehicle technology of the B-Class F-CELL is now fully mature, Dr Thomas Weber, Member of the Board of Management at Daimler AG, acknowledged that the fuel station infrastructure represents limitations. "With our 'F-CELL World Drive’ we want not only to demonstrate the capability and everyday usability of fuel cell drive, but also to lobby for the establishment of a hydrogen fuel cell network" he stated.
"Today, as with the invention of automobile 125 years ago, the issue of a corresponding fuelling infrastructure arises. But I am confident that together with all of the parties involved we will find a solution that enables us to fully exploit the tremendous potential of this technology" Dr Webber commented.
The journey will last 125 days and will see the vehicle driven through four continents and the widest variety of climate zones. The exceptional long-distance journey will take the fuel cell vehicles through 14 countries: from southern Europe, through France, Spain and Portugal, the cars will continue on to North America, where they will drive through both the USA as well as Canada. After crossing Australia the cars will reach the continent of Asia. From China they will then pass through Kazakhstan, Russia and finally northern Europe, until the tour returns to Stuttgart at the beginning of June, where the 125-day round-the-world tour will come to an end.
Mercedes-Benz has adopted a clever solution for the lack of hydrogen filling stations along the route. Acting as the exclusive supplier for hydrogen is the project partner Linde AG, which will guarantee a reliable supply thanks to its sites and subsidiaries located throughout the world. On remote routes a tanker vehicle, which has been specially developed for the tour in cooperation with Linde AG, will also be on hand to supply the fuel cell vehicles with the necessary hydrogen
"With this unique circumnavigation of the world we are emphasizing the high level of technical maturity of our electric vehicles with fuel cells. Such an undertaking would not be possible using purely battery-powered electric vehicles," Dr Weber added. "This will make the B-Class F-CELL a global ambassador for a new, local zero-emissions auto-mobility of the future."
Powered by an electric motor with 100 kw (134 horsepower) and 290 Nm (215 lb-ft) of torque, the new B-Class F-CELL provides driving performance comparable to a similar conventional car while using about half the fuel. The car utilises a fuel cell stack for generating electricity and a lithium ion battery for energy storage. Taking around three minutes to refuel, the B-Class F-CELL emits only water as a by-product of the fuel cell system.
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