► Electric Mercedes cars and Project EQ
► The 2020 Mercedes electric car range
► What you can buy today - what's coming soon
Mercedes-Benz is steadily launching more electric cars, as it aims to plug in most of its range. In this guide we'll talk you through the current choice of Merc EVs, the battery-operated models waiting in the wings and the wider background to Daimler's vision for electromobility.
As a brand that prides itself on technical innovation, it was only natural that Mercedes would be in the first wave of premium electric cars. To some extent, it's been playing catch-up: BMW pipped them to it with Project i back in 2013, which sired the BMW i3 and i8.
But now Merc is hitting back with the EQC, its first fully electric production car and a rival to the Jaguar i-Pace and Audi E-Tron. And the pace of change is hotting up.
Further electric reading
How much is a Mercedes EQC? It's not cheap: UK prices today start at £65,720, although you do qualify for the government's Plug In Car Grant, which will reduce that by £3500. It's a pretty quick SUV, with 0-62mph in 5.1sec, 402bhp and an 80kWh battery, which takes around 2hrs 35mins to charge at home on a wallbox, or 11hrs 40min on a three-point plug. If you're lucky enough to find a super-fast DC charging station out and about, it takes just 11 minutes to charge to 80% full, says Mercedes-Benz.
Future Mercedes electric cars: what's coming soon
The EQC (above) is the first of several upcoming electric Mercedes-Benz products - and all of the first tranche are SUVs. You can decode the badges in a logical, Germanic fashion: EQ means it's an electric car, the final letter references its place in the Daimler hierarchy (C here standing for GLC, or C-Class-sized SUV).
No surprises for guessing the next batch of electric Mercs then:
- EQA GLA-based compact electric SUV
- EQB Similar in size to the GLB, another electric crossover
- EQS Yes, the next-generation S-Class will have an all-electric model
- EQV Full-size electric van already confirmed for V-Class range (below)
The pace of change won't let up any time soon - this is merely the first four Merc EVs, so look out for an electric version of most products in the years ahead.
There's an intriguing industrial web of complexity here. First, there was the EVA1 (electric vehicle architecture), which gave us the EQC derived from the GLC. Next out will be EVA v1.5, a more advanced iteration due to manifest itself in the upcoming EQA (more of a B-class, really) and EQB (an electrified GLB). Then there's EVA2, a brand-new architecture conceived to underpin the 2021 EQS and the smaller EQE along with their SUV sister models.
Confused? Wait until you hear about the new open-source MMA (Mercedes Modular Architecture) waiting in the wings. Due in 2025 or 2026, MMA is a new platform strategy designed to bring together Merc's disparate EV hardware into one, more modular technology stack.
Project EQ: the umbrella project for Mercedes-Benz electrification
Mercedes-Benz kicked off its electric car plans back at the 2016 Paris motor show: its EQ concept car – a pointer to a new generation of electric cars and a harbinger of a whole new way of owning and driving cars bearing the three-pointed star.
The EQ was ‘very close’ to the new GLC-sized electric crossover that launched in 2018 as the EQC. But it’s the thinking behind it, as much as the actual product itself, that’s noteworthy. Daimler’s move had echoes of BMW’s Project i, which is siring a whole generation of EVs over in Munich.
The Generation EQ concept shows the first in a series of new electric Mercs and then-marketing chief Jens Thiemer took time out from the French show to explain the thinking behind the electric car project.
‘These new cars are purpose-designed; they will not be existing cars,’ he told CAR, pointing to the crisp style pioneered by the EQ pictured above. ‘This concept car is called Generation EQ because we want to say it’s a whole family coming.
‘The model you see here is very close to the first electric production car. You will see it in 2018… and the price will be comparable to a top-end GLC.’
That GLC crossover reference is pertinent; the EQ has similar proportions, but with a slicker, more modernist vibe. Pop on production door handles, wheels, lights and interior, and you can easily imagine this sliding into dealer showrooms. And unlike BMW's posh supermini and racy sports car, Merc is planning to launch its sub-brand with a vogueish crossover.
The front end is especially striking. Why the distinct face? ’We have to bring something new to market,’ says Thiemer (above). ‘We have to electrify the design too. We think the front end is a very strong signal of our intent.’
A top-down rethink of Mercedes motoring
The EQ project is much more than just this one car. It’s part of a new strategy dubbed CASE - encapsulating ‘the four megatrends transforming our industry.’ They are:
- C: Connected Cars are communicating car-to-car and to the wider world
- A: Autonomous Driverless cars are coming and will remove drudgery of driving
- S: Sharing An Uber model will allow cars’ usage to increase hugely
- E: Electric Battery power will become the norm in crowded city spaces
This mantra will underpin everything Mercedes-Benz does in the new era of electromobility. It’s a future in which Merc EVs are increasingly shared, with membership clubs and pay-by-the-hour availability for owners who might borrow a hybrid car for longer journeys and a pure EV for the final miles into town.
‘We see the end of ownership among people in metropolitan parts of the world,’ according to Thiemer. ‘They want to rent cars by the kilometre instead.’
‘Distribution will be different too. We will not exclude our dealers but there will be a proportion of online sales.’ Expect to be buying, or more likely leasing, Mercs on your phone sooner rather than later.
Crucially, the car and its applications are at the heart of users’ digital lives. ‘The car becomes the digital device,’ argues Thiemer. ’Our services must be completely integrated with it.’
For Mercedes, connected cars will club together to spot empty parking spaces and communicate that data back out to the ecosystem. 'Finding a parking space can take 10-15 minutes on each journey today,' said Daimler's former CEO Dieter Zetsche. 'Not in a connected future.' The boss envisages a world in which Mercedes apps and services power a new sharing economy. 'Cars are not used for 23 hours a day on average. Why not use them for peer-to-peer car sharing?... It could be like AirBnB for cars!'
The future's bright, the future's electric
Mercedes’ electric adventure started some years ago, and spans everything from Smart to the biggest plug-in S-classes. Thiemer reckons it’ll take a good three years to establish the EQ brand, but says that process is well underway. ‘We will have 10 PHEVs [plug-in hybrid electric vehicles] by 2017.’
And a full range of EQ family members, all bespoke electric models? ‘Within five years we will have a whole family,’ the marketing chief tells CAR. ‘By 2025, 15-25% of the Mercedes range will be fully electric. Add in PHEVs, and they’ll make up 50% of our range.’
You’d better believe it: the electric revolution is coming. 'The car is no longer just a platform,' adds Zetsche. 'It's a digital platform.' Expect conventional wisdom to be turned upside down...