Exotic concept models that were never likely to see the light of day in production form were the stuff of motor show booths even five years ago. But the global economic problems, especially for European manufacturers, have ensured that most modern concepts are much closer to production models.
That was certainly the case for Mercedes-Benz, and the Concept B-Class Electric Drive displayed at the 2012 Paris Motor Show. “Our Concept B-Class Electric Drive gives you a very good impression of the series production model that we will bring to market in 2014,” announced Professor Thomas Weber, Board of Management member with responsibility for Group Research and Development at Mercedes-Benz Cars, at the show.
Like the original late 1990s A-Class, the B-Class was designed to accommodate a range of different drive systems without impacting on interior or luggage space. Mercedes refers to this space, ahead of the rear axle and beneath the passenger compartment floor, as the Energy Space, and it is used to accommodate the lithium-ion battery pack for the electric version. Similarly, this space is used to accommodate the 125-L (4.41-ft³) gas tanks used in the B-Class with Natural Gas Drive, also launched at Paris.
For the Concept B-Class Electric Drive, the battery pack is said to provide a range of up to 200 km (125 mi) on a full charge. The batteries can be recharged from any European 230-V domestic power socket, while also benefiting from a rapid charging facility, which is said to be able to provide a range of up to 100 km (62 mi) after one hour of charging from a 400-V supply.
Drive is transmitted to the front wheels from a 100-kW electric motor, delivering 310 N·m (229 lb·ft) of torque from rest. Mercedes claims the car can accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h (62 km/h) in less than 10 s. Top speed is limited to 150 km/h (93 mph). Regenerative braking is incorporated in the control system.
To distinguish the electric variant from other B-Class models, it is finished in reflective blue. Redesigned front and rear fenders as well as the new side skirts continue the design separation. The charging connector is positioned behind the conventional fuel filler flap.
Instrumentation has been redesigned to accommodate electric vehicle information. The display includes a power meter, which indicates when energy is being consumed or regeneration is taking place. The car can be accessed online via PC or smartphone to check the state of battery charge or verify range on a map.
A planned route can also be displayed, showing possible charging points. Like other electric cars, the climate-control system can be pre-programmed before the start of a journey for interior conditioning. Similarly, the journey start time can be pre-programmed in the smart charging system to ensure that the car is fully charged beforehand, factoring in off-peak charging times or optimization with low CO2 energy sources.