Watching the Tesla Model S outsell the Mercedes S Class sedan in many major markets — including its home market in Germany — has to be galling for Mercedes Benz. While parent company Daimler and most of its auto manufacturer peers have been slow to react to the transportation revolution created by Tesla, they are all now planning to bring electric cars of their own to market in the near future. Some of those cars, like the Jaguar XJ and Audi A8, will be based on existing models, but Michael Kelz, head of large car development for Mercedes, tells Autocar his company will have a luxury sedan equivalent to the S Class based on a dedicated electric car platform in showrooms by 2020.
“We will have an electric vehicle at the level of the S Class, no doubt, but it will not be the S Class. It will be a luxury, electric car, a top-of-the-line car,” Kelz says. Called the EQ S, it will be marketed under the EQ brand, Daimler’s name for its all new electric car division. The EQ S will use the newly developed MEA chassis, a platform designed specifically for electric cars. The configuration pioneered by the Tesla Model S, consisting of a large battery mounted low in the chassis between the wheels, is rapidly being adopted by other car companies for their own electric cars.
Kelz explains that the MRA chassis, which underpins the current S Class sedan, is not suitable for true electric cars, which tend to have a longer wheelbase and shorter overhangs front and rear. However, it can serve as the basis for a car with a plug-in hybrid powertrain. The new CLS is also based on the MRA chassis.“We have not planned to bring this car to market as a plug-in hybrid, but it would be possible. As soon as we see there is higher demand, we could go for a plug-in hybrid in the CLS.”
While Kelz says a concept version of the EQ S is already undergoing testing and 2020 is the target roll out date, it could be 2022 before it goes into full production. Mercedes has said it plans to have 20 electrified models in its product mix by that time. “Electrified” is not the same as “electric.” So far, Mercedes is only talking about building a small electric sedan, the EQ A, and an electric crossover, the EQ C. But plug-in hybrid offerings will be welcome as part of the ongoing transition to fully electric vehicles.
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