Mercedes-Benz today unveiled the new SLS AMG Coupe Electric Drive at the 2012 Paris motor show - the production supercar EV derived from the SLS E-Cell concept car.
It thrusts Mercedes right into the thick of the race for green supercars, jostling for attention with the forthcoming McLaren P1, Ferrari Enzo successor, Honda NSX, Porsche 918 and Jaguar C-X75.
However, Merc has leapfrogged many of its competitors since the SLS AMG Coupe Electric Drive goes on sale in summer 2013 exactly as you see here. This is no concept car or pre-production prototype. It's the real deal.
The electric Mercedes SLS supercar: the lowdown
This is a pricey, top-end eco supercar, make no mistake. The SLS EV will cost around €416,500 in Germany, which points to a UK price around £350,000. It will be sold in left-hand drive only in European markets and - at this stage - there are no plans for sales in the US or outside the EU.
That lofty price point means this is strictly for well-heeled enthusiasts. Although unveiled first as a coupe, there is no technical reason why a roadster couldn't follow (all the electric gear is mounted low in the structure). We'd expect the convertible electric SLS to follow, possibly with a more global sales remit in hotter climes.
How does the Mercedes SLS AMG Coupe Electric Drive manage to produce 730bhp?
That'll be down to the four electric motors spinning at up to 13,000rpm at each corner. Each motor generates 138kW each and the layout means the electric SLS has four-wheel drive capability and can use torque vectoring to trim the handling mid-bend. Interestingly, the rival R8-based Audi E-tron is two-wheel drive only, despite Ingolstadt's reputation for 4wd.
With a colossal 737lb ft combined available, the e-SLS is phenomenally fast: Mercedes quotes 0-62mph in 3.9sec and a top speed capped at 155mph. For reference, a regular SLS coupe has 563bhp, passes sixty-two in 3.8sec and tops out at 197mph.
The batteries are made by UK-based AMG High Performance Powertrains Ltd in Brixworth - the same people who make the KERS system for the Mercedes Petronas F1 car. It's a massive battery pack, comprising 864 lithium-ion cells for a combined output of 60kWh.
How big is the battery pack in the electric Mercedes SLS?
Such energy density doesn't come cheap, or light. The battery pack alone weighs 548kg - nearly as much as a Mk1 Lotus Elise! - pushing the total kerbweight of the SLS Electric Drive to 2095kg, up from 1695kg of the petrol supercar. The battery's housed in an aluminium and carbonfibre cell along the spine of the car; without a prop shaft or regular engine, there's space aplenty for the EV hardware.
A fast-charge system can be installed at home to recharge those batteries in three hours; using a regular domestic supply would take 20 hours to refuel. Just remember if you access that performance too frequently - there's no hybrid petrol engine to kick in when charge is low…
What else is new on the SLS Electric Drive?
Pleasingly, much of the SLS package remains as before: the boot space is unaffected and the cabin little altered from the regular supercar. New bucket seats and EV instruments spice up the interior.
You do get more toys for your astronomical price tag, thankfully: the front splitter is new, fins on the bonnet and front wings mark out the EV and the lamp units front and rear are smoked for a more distinctive style. A smattering of carbonfibre is used - brakes are ceramic and door mirrors and engine cover are CRFP - while the SLS has its own noise generator for a 'specially developed, futuristic noise.'
Just goes to show that there's life in the old supercar yet.