Cars

Published on December 14th, 2014 | by Kyle Field

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2014 Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive Review — 1st Month (Exclusive)

December 14th, 2014 by  

Editor’s Note: We’ve got another review of a new electric vehicle from a regular CleanTechnica reader. Kyle Field — who I regularly communicate with on Google+ regarding solar & EVs, and who also shares a lot of good thoughts in the comments below CleanTechnica articles — is one of the lucky few Americans who now has a 2014 Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive. I was thrilled to find out, see pics, and offer the chance to share his initial impressions with fellow CleanTechnica readers. Here’s his thorough review after the first month. (We’ll be sure to pester him for updates as he gets used to the slick, Tesla-powered, torque-happy Mercedes.)

2014 Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive 2

Image Credit: Kyle Field (CC BY-SA 4.0)

By Kyle Field

A month ago, my wife and I traded in our aging gasmobile for the newly introduced 2014 Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive EV. I considered myself to be an educated EV consumer but still had quite a few learnings — some good, some bad — in the first month with our EV. Though the majority of our learnings were not related to the car itself, but more generically to the transition from a gasmobile to an EV, that’s where I’ll start.

Home Charging

Charging up your EV at home is one of the great benefits of EVs, as it means that there is no need to stop at a gas station anymore! The Level 2 “charger” most EV buyers think they need for their garage is not actually a charger (the actual charger is onboard the EV itself), but rather an EVSE, or “Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment,” which is just a fancy term for the hardware that: 1) Provides the right connection from your local power source to your EV, and 2) Talks back and forth with your EV through the charging process. In our case, as with that of most EV owners in the US, our charger has the J1772 plug on it, which plugs directly into the charging port of our B-Class.

Mercedes Electric Charger

Level 2 residential chargers range from $600–$1000+, and after a bit of research, we went with the Schneider Electric EV230WS for $599 (it has since dropped to $488) from Amazon because it was rated very highly and allowed us to mount the charging end separately from the actual EVSE unit. This unit also allowed us to put a standard 30amp plug on it vs. hardwiring it, which allowed us to use our existing 220 volt dryer outlet.

It is not necessary to install a Level 2 EVSE in your home to charge your EV — you can use the 110 adapter that is included with the EV — but we wanted the extra flexibility to more quickly charge up and to have the option to keep the 110 charger in the car at all times, just in case.

Remote Charging

In the first few weeks of getting our EV, we wanted to charge every opportunity we had. Range anxiety is all the rage in mainstream media, so plugging in everywhere we possibly could just felt good. We soon realized that this was counterproductive, as there’s simply no need to charge when popping out for dinner or to grab some groceries. It also blocks a spot for other EV drivers who might be farther away from home and need the spot to charge. On top of that, most public charging stations require payment whereas home charging is powered by our solar panels (free! with our California net metering).

Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive back

Image Credit: Kyle Field (CC BY-SA 4.0)

To offset our increased electrical usage, we will be adding several more solar panels to our current installation to fully offset our increased usage. The B-Class is one of the least efficient EVs on the market in terms of miles per kWh with its rating of 2.5 mi/kWh. In our first 750 miles, our actual average is 2.9 mi/kWh, and based on that, we will need another 7.6 panels to power our EV for the estimated 8900 miles/year we drive. We are already producing more than we need, so we will be adding 5 panels next month to put us back in the green.

One unique challenge EV owners have is the large variety of charging networks out there. After test driving a few charging network apps, we have found that the crowdsourced PlugShare app (Web, iOS, Android) has the best overview of the entire public charging network and includes chargers from many of the big networks, like ChargePoint, Blink, EV Connect, and NRG’s eVgo, as well as personal charging locations! Wanting to build capability and make the most of our EV, we have signed up for several different charging networks, each of which has it’s own unique way to charge — some with set monthly fees, others with a price per kWh or per hour, etc. It’s been an interesting process but the net takeaway is that, here in Southern California, there are lots of chargers in lots of areas we frequent.

To date, we have only charged at Level 2 chargers but plan to give Level 3 / DC Fast Charging a go in the next few weeks. Plug In America has a great overview of EV charging here that I found especially helpful.

Exterior

Digging in to our specific EV — the Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive — it looks and feels a lot like a normal car. In fact, this is the same B-Class that has been sold overseas as a gasmobile for many years, with the same exterior and interior with the exception of the minuscule “Electric Drive” badge. As an EV/Solar/Sustainability fanatic, this is one of the things I was not a fan of, as I want our EV to roam the streets screaming “No gas needed, thanks” or “Suckers… I’m running on sunshine” … but alas, it was not to be. Some drivers (my wife included) just want a nice-looking, “normal-looking” car which just happens to be an EV, and the B-Class is a perfect fit.

Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive Side

Image Credit: Kyle Field (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Interior

In our search for the right EV, we found the B-Class seating to be the most balanced for our needs. The front seats felt a bit less roomy when compared to the BMW i3, whereas the rear seats had MUCH more room than the i3. The B-Class seats 5 while the i3 opted for in-seat cupholders, reducing it’s capacity to 4. Finally, the rear seats in the i3 are accessed through split doors, which requires the front door to open before the rear passengers can enter/exit.  As we have two little boys (3 and 5), I was not thrilled at the prospect of their nagging at me to open my door before they get in or out each and every time. Check out a more thorough comparison of the two in Ted Kidd’s review here (another CleanTechnica reader review).

2014 Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive inside

Image Credit: Kyle Field (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Under the Hood

While the B-Class looks and feels like a normal car, when you pop the hood, things change. The B-Class’ electric motor, batteries, charger, and supporting EV systems are all made by Tesla, shipped from the US to Germany for assembly. While I’m not a car fanatic (at least not the gas-powered ones), I feel a sense of pride that Mercedes came to a US company for their first EV. This was a feature on the plus side for me, as Tesla is making waves in the EV world and I’m happy to be a part of that revolution.

Driving the B-Class

With the normal looking exterior, the accelerator of the B-Class houses a fun secret — instant torque! This is difficult to put into words for non-EV drivers but suffice it to say that the accelerator on this EV (and most other EVs) is responsive. When you step on the pedal, it jumps. Continued pressure results in a very smooth acceleration up to whatever speed you desire. I occasionally treat my kids to a ride on the roller coaster and pound the pedal down to the ground on the way to pre-school resulting in what feels like a quick boost on a roller coaster. Granted, they’re too young for coasters at this point, but the sentiment is spot on.

The B-Class has 3 driving modes — Sport, Economy, and Economy Plus. Sport offers the most responsive accelerator with a corresponding reduction in range as a penalty for the fun had when driving. In Sport, the B-Class has no problem chirping the tires off the line or even from 15 mph if that’s your thing. I personally try to put it in Economy Plus right off the bat, which maximizes mileage and minimizes my risk of extra traffic tickets. It’s fun to drive in all 3 driving modes and it’s great to have the option for a different driving experience at the click of a button.

2014 Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive 5

Image Credit: Kyle Field (CC BY-SA 4.0)

2014 Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive 8

Image Credit: Kyle Field (CC BY-SA 4.0)

2014 Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive 7

Image Credit: Kyle Field (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Range

As I mentioned, this particular configuration results in the least efficient EV when compared to others available today, with an MPGe rating of 85/83 and most others coming in at 100+. This is largely due to the fact that the B-Class was not built from the ground up as an EV or even a fuel-efficient car but rather a converted gas mobile. This is most evident in the weight — at 3935 lbs, the B-Class is no featherweight. For comparison, the BMW i3 which was purpose-built as an EV comes in at 2853 lbs (without the Range Extender). The B-Class pays a further penalty for being a former gasmobile, as extra battery capacity was required to haul around the extra mass. The B-Class’ battery is rated at 36 kWh.

One neat thing about EVs is the Regen… short for regeneration — where the car uses the car’s momentum to generate electricity when braking. This is old hat for Prius owners, as this technology has been the bread and butter of hybrid battery charging for years now, but this EV takes it to a new level. When you’re driving along and accelerating, the car drives as you’d expect, pulling power from the battery to the motor… but the second you release your pressure, the regen kicks in and begins charging the battery, slowing the vehicle. It’s an odd feeling at first but after a short time driving, feels natural. It gives a new degree of control over acceleration and deceleration with a single pedal. The regen is so strong that it will slow the vehicle down almost to a stop without the need for brakes, putting all that kinetic energy back into your battery.

What’s great about regen is that it extends the real-time range of the B-Class beyond it’s battery-only range of 87 miles. Just how much of an extension depends on personal driving style and terrain (hills vs flat, freeway speeds vs stop and go driving, etc). We live up on a hill and regularly make it to the freeway onramp 3 miles away with an extra mile of range. Conversely, we have a ~1000’ climb on the freeway that, across 2 miles, zaps 5–6 miles from our range.

2014 Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive 1

Image Credit: Kyle Field (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Cost Savings

One of the big selling points for us was the monthly cost savings. Being a bit of a data nut, I was eager to track our savings — both financially and in the sheer reduction in dinosaur goo (aka gasoline) usage. My calculations showed that we would save approximately $100/month of our $130 gasmobile fuel bill. Having solar panels on the roof, I was excited to see how much of our driving would be offset by our current overproduction and how many more panels we would need to fully offset our EV usage.

For my calculations, I used the actual production averages from our existing 12 panels over the last 12 months and used that to estimate the number of panels needed to cover 8,000 miles of driving per year (Low) and 12,000 miles per year (High). The chart below shows that in Southern California, the annual output from 1 panel on the roof is roughly equivalent to 1,000 miles/year in the Mercedes B-Class ED.

Estimated Usage and Savings

mercedes electric

I have split the “savings” into EV savings which represents the savings in moving from a gasmobile to electricity at retail rates and the savings from the solar panels which get to claim savings from not having to pay the retail rate for electricity, as part of their own return on investment.

Savings in the last 3.5 weeks of November

mercedes b-class ed

Summary

Overall, we are thrilled with the B-Class. We went into our EV purchase with our eyes open about the pros and cons of EVs and couldn’t be more pleased. We filed for the $2,500 California state rebate which will show up in 6–8 weeks and will be including the $7,500 federal tax credit in our 2014 tax return. The Mercedes B-Class felt like a great value for a Mercedes when compared to the after-rebate prices of the other EVs on the market.

2014 Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive 4

Image Credit: Kyle Field (CC BY-SA 4.0)

2014 Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive 3

Image Credit: Kyle Field (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Related:

BMW i3 vs Mercedes B-Class Electric (Exclusive)

Mercedes B-Class EV Comes With 124-Mile Range, Tesla Technology, Multiple Braking Options


Check out our new 93-page EV report, based on over 2,000 surveys collected from EV drivers in 49 of 50 US states, 26 European countries, and 9 Canadian provinces.

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About the Author

I'm a tech geek passionately in search of actionable ways to reduce the negative impact my life has on the planet, save money and reduce stress. Live intentionally, make conscious decisions, love more, act responsibly, play. The more you know, the less you need. TSLA investor. Tesla referral link: http://ts.la/kyle623



  • jeffreydurbin

    I bought mine last Thursday night and had it delivered on Friday morning. Black with ash interior and the burl walnut dash insert. No other options. MSRP plus taxes and registration should have made it about $47,000 out the door but I got it for $36,171 out the door. That is not a typo. I got about $11,000 off the price.

    The federal tax credit and CA rebate will bring the price down to about $26,000.

    I will sell my 2005 BMW 6-series with 73,000 miles for about $16,000 bringing my cost to move into the EV world to about $10,000 net of everything.

    Anyone who has served in the military (or FBI or CIA) should check into USAA. Their car buying service got me an insane discount on the purchase price.

    • Thomas Schwaiger

      Hello Jeffrey,
      May I ask where you live and where you purchased your B-class?
      Thanks,
      Thomas

      • jeffreydurbin

        Penske west Covina mercedes.

  • tmac1

    Quick Question to those of you who got the car:

    BMW website says $4,000 down with $299 a month excluding taxes title registration.
    Any idea how much those items would bump up the payment ? $320 or $390?

    I saw Interview with ELON who notes in Europe the cars price is higher but more transparent as it includes the VAT (value added tax). In US, lease payments , purchase price never includes this in part because we have 50 different sales tax rates??

    • Andrew Fischer

      Tax, Title, registration and dealer fees varies widely by region. The way leases are taxed varies from state to state. Some states tax the entire purchase price, some only put tax on the payments.

      You need to get a quote for where you live.

  • spec9

    It is a decent car but the lack of any DC fast-charging ability hurts it.

  • Correction to article claims that DC charging is potentially provided with this car. It is not.

    The car provides a J1772 standard adaptor which supports AC charging.

    The Mercedes B Class ED has a 10KW on board charger capable of fully utilizing a 40A 220V EVSE (aka L2 charging station). This is one of the more capable on board AC chargers available on North American EV’s.

    Note : Link to a forum post showing a proposed modification that adds DC quick charging to this car:
    http://www.mybclasselectricdrive.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=152

    • Kyle Field

      This is what I was referring to. The car clearly supports 400 volt charging (see attached pic)… Just not sure if that requires work from the factory or if there’s a 400 volt j1772 charging standard out there.

      • As per this forum post, the 400V charging is 16A three phase at 11kW total power.

        http://www.mybclasselectricdrive.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=8&t=158

        11kW is the maximum allowed by the AC charging equipment included in the Mercedes B class ED.

        The L3 DC quick chargers can provide up to 100kW, so you can see where it makes no sense to claim the Mercedes can “quick charge”.

        • Kyle Field

          Based on that forum post, that does appear to be the case. I’m in no hurry for it but will keep an eye out for an official word from MB for how that will be used (or if) in the US.

      • Andrew Fischer

        That doesn’t make sense. 400V is 3 phase but the J1772 connector is single or split-phase.

        The 5 pins are L1, L2/N, Ground, Control Pilot and proximity detection. You’d need L1, L2, L3 for 3-phase.

        The version sold here in the UK can charge at 11kW from 400V 3-phase power but it has the EU Type-2 connector with more pins.

        I suspect the car was supposed to be supercharger compatible, but the feature was dropped very late in development. Just speculation based on very little evidence. The 400V mystery sticker and Mercedes selling their Tesla shares about the same time as the car was released.

        • mgboyes

          Yes that sticker seems to be just plain wrong. In some markets the car is able to charge from 400V 3 phase AC (which is what’s indicated by the 400V with three wavy lines next to it) but not in the US where the J1772 connector is single phase only.

          Level 3 charging would be DC power, which this car can’t take – there’s no DC connector of any kind.

          Sorry but your car cannot charge either from a 3 phase AC
          source, or from a level 3 DC charger.

    • Denys Allard

      Considering Daimler has adopted the combo connector standard, why would you want to put a CHAdeMO plug on it?

  • tmac1

    Nice write up
    Thank you
    You mentioned quick charging, but the Model I test drove had the standard plug, with no quick charge option?

    • Denys Allard

      BMW made the same mistake on the i3 but the 2015 models will have the combo connector and they intend to install a lot of their fastchargers everywhere which will also help e-Golf sales which does have the fastcharging port. They will also have to refit the 3,000+ cars already sold with the new charging port. Mercedes will have to do the same at some point. People want the option to be able to fastcharge. Lack of foresight on their part.

      • geekinthecockpit

        Quick charging (Level 3, CCS) for the I3 can NOT be retro-fitted. It either comes from the factory that way or not. Same holds true for the Leaf and I assume the Mercedes ED. We own an I3 and Leaf so I’m up to date on these two and have done a lot of research on the ED.

        • Denys Allard

          Provided the physical room exist, what makes you think this is not possible? The only difference is the addition of 2 more contacts which are wired directly to the batterypack. I am an electromechanical engineer; my company makes the J1772 combo connector and we also do EV conversions. I am going to look into this possibility.

    • Kyle Field

      The charging port indicates that it can accept 100 (Level 1), 200 (Level 2) and 400 (Quick Charging) volt charging though the plug is just the standard J1772 version. I haven’t seen any locations that support this (yet?) but am hopeful. If nothing else, while this isn’t required for us to use it around town, I hope to have the option for a factory upgrade that would enable it to allow for more flexibility in the future.

      • SMacA

        Interesting you mention a 400v quick charge. I wonder if it physically connects to a Tesla Supercharger? (Which is 400v)

        There were rumours it would be the first non Tesla that was capable of using them. Though I think this got canned for political rather than technical reasons.

        • Kyle Field

          The physical connection on the MB B-ED is a J1772 which is different from the Telsa supercharger connectors. It would have been a nice feature though, to be sure.

      • Andrew Fischer

        The version Mercedes sells in the EU does not have Level 3 charging, even as an option. One of the reasons it is off the list of cars to replace our UK LEAF.

        I just looked at the MB USA web page and couldn’t find any mention of Level 3 charging there either. The USA website says “Just two hours at a common public charging station can juice up its lithium-ion battery enough to go up to 60 miles.” That sure sounds like Level 2 to me.

  • David in Bushwick

    Perhaps it’s the camera, but why does this car design appear to be the least appealing of all Mercedes’ various models?

    • Kyle Field

      I suppose beauty is in the eye of the beholder 🙂 Having said that, I’m personally not a fan of many of their designs…but when I look at this one, all I see is “of course I’m sexy, I’m an EV :D”

      • David in Bushwick

        Yeah, I remember new car designs from a few years ago by both BMW and Mercedes were quite remarkable and today they seem to be in some strange transitional stage.
        Tesla and Fisker makes these German sedans seem almost quaint.

    • jeffreydurbin

      I think it looks a lot like the Mazda 5. I just got mine last Friday and I am selling my 6-series BMW, using my Corvette instead of the BMW and using my new B-class as a daily driver. It’s a business decision.

    • Greg Hudson

      Visually unappealing because it is an MPV. I own an 2013 ICE version, and to be honest, I think it is an ugly duckling !

  • Rob

    Thanks for the review. Just picked up a B Class ED for my wife last Tuesday. We have only had it or 5 days and only had our level 2 ESVE for 2 of them. I was happy to have done 105 miles yesterday without using any gas. I live in the North East so its cold and am only getting 2.2m/KwH so far. Only 220 mile on the car so it’s still early. Looking forward to saving money and the environment.

  • Charlotte Omoto

    If you ever travel north, you might also download the SunCuntry app. For some reason, their charging stations aren’t on PlugShare or Recargo.

    • Kyle Field

      Thanks Charlotte! Their site is http://suncountryhighway.com/ for those who are interested.

    • Many of the Sun Country Highway charging stations are on plugshare. The ones I use are here in Ontario…

      • Charlotte Omoto

        That’s good to know. I hope they will get all their stations on plugshare so that we do not need to check multiple apps. Perhaps its only the charger in the western US that aren’t.

  • JamesWimberley

    Takeup of evs would be faster if the rebate were paid to dealers rather than end buyers. The ticket price should be what you pay. It’s also easier and cheaper to administer: the state government can list all the dealers in a single spreadsheet.

    • Kyle Field

      Totally agree. Applying for the California rebate was painless though it will take ~8-12 weeks to actually show up. Federal is a mess and seems overcomplicated. There’s apparently also an issue if your total federal tax burden is less than the rebate which seems like an unnecessary complication.

    • FYI
      The situation in Ontario Canada is done completely through the purchase transaction. The rebate came off my sticker price.

      • SMacA

        Same in UK

    • jeffreydurbin

      State sales tax is based on the purchase price so having the federal tax credit and CA rebate come through after the fact increases the sales tax they can get out of your pocket.

  • Larmion

    Quick note: the i3’s lower weight compared to the B-class has little to do with it being designed as an EV.

    Most of the weight savings come from materials choice: the i3 uses carbon fibre whereas the B-class stuck to traditional steel. There’s no reason why you couldn’t build a carbon fibre gasmobile or a steel EV.

    In fact, a typical EV is heavier than a comparable ICE.

    • Kyle Field

      My understanding was that BMW chose to use carbon fibre to make it as light as possible…to offset the increased weight of the batteries.

      • Larmion

        BMW hopes to use carbon fiber for all nearly all cars it builds in the future – EV and ICE.

        They chose to start with the i3 because it’s a good test case: small sales volumes, clearly seperated from their core products and a loss maker anyway.

        • spec9

          But it is not nearly as important in the gas cars because they don’t have range issues.

    • TedKidd

      I think they were looking for a way to justify developing carbon fibre expertise. EV drove BMW’s carbon fiber decision as in EV the benefits are greatest due to pack size reduction. And BMW recognizes ICE is dying, and wants to be positioned to be a winner with EV.

      That said, there are benefits that will translate in future to ICE and PHEV vehicles, but those benefits were not the prime driver.

    • spec9

      F=ma. Reduce the m (mass) and you reduce the amount of energy required to provide the F (force) for a (acceleration). Thus a lighter vehicle makes it more efficient and extends the range.

    • Greg Hudson

      When you say ‘Carbon Fiber’, it is not the traditional CF that we all know… It is actually CF reinforced PLASTIC. It is nothing like the normal woven CF we see in Formula 1 cars (for example).

    • Robert Pollock

      I beg to differ; It’s all about weight. Only a few auto manufacturers have bitten the bullet and developed light weight chassis and frames. Tesla, Ford, BMW that I can think of, but there are a few others playing with options. All the new “kit” EV’s have light weight components, steel is eliminated where ever possible.
      As this game starts, the steel bodied EV’s are still competitive, but as ranges approach 200 miles as a minimum, they’ll be gone and so will this MB EV.

      • Bob_Wallace

        There are new forms of steel which are much stronger per pound that the steel we’ve been using. Another lighter metal option, likely a lot cheaper than aluminum and carbon fiber.

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