Chairman of the Board of Daimler and Head of Mercedes-Benz Dr. Dieter Zetsche officially unveiled the new fully electric Mercedes-Benz EQC SUV in Sweden today. The vehicle promises to bring all of the safety, comfort, quality, and convenience Mercedes-Benz is known for into an electric vehicle that has been completely reimagined from the ground up.
The EQC is slated to arrive in 2020 with 450km (280 miles) of range according to the European testing cycle (NEDC). It is poised to be a serious competitor in the luxury SUV space, but will face stiff headwinds from incumbents Tesla and, by 2020, Jaguar, Audi, and more.
[Update: As some commenters have pointed out and we failed to note this time since it seems so commonly understood, the European range rating is surely far too optimistic/unrealistic. We don’t have a realistic or EPA range rating yet, but we assume it will be somewhere in the vicinity of 200 miles.]
The EQC will hit the road with 300kW of power, which translates to just over 400 horsepower. Electric vehicles break the way we have grown accustomed to thinking about power, with their instant torque transforming the driving experience and providing an EV smile that throws passengers back in their ultra-soft leather Mercedes-Benz seats as the car takes off — as if propelled from a rail gun.
Mercedes is touting an early, unofficial efficiency number of 22.2kWh/100km, which translates to 4.5 kilometers/kWh or 2.8 miles per kWh. Those aren’t numbers to write home about, coming in lower than most other long- or short-range electric vehicles on the market today — but it is an SUV. For comparison, the 2018 Tesla Model X 75D achieves the same 2.8 miles per kWh, while the 2018 Model S 75D achieves 3.3 miles per kWh.
It is impressive to see Mercedes-Benz putting up efficiency numbers that are competitive with currently available electric vehicles and gets me excited to see where the overall automotive industry will be in 2 years.
The world premiere event was held in Sweden to play off of 2 key themes: design and innovation. Dr. Zetsche shared that, “the exterior, for instance, is all about less complexity and less frills.” He shared that Scandinavian design aesthetic resonates with the design of the EQC, which is all business on the outside, with the inside still maintaining the comfortable, welcoming comfort that Mercedes-Benz is known for.
The EQC ushers in “a new look for a new era,” according to Dr. Zetsche, as the brand looks to earn back some of the sales it has lost to Tesla in recent years in its core categories. Perhaps more urgently, Mercedes-Benz must move into electric vehicles in earnest if it is to avert what could be disastrous losses if the trend continues into its darling C-Class sedans and mid-size SUVs. The Tesla Model 3 is already starting to eat into this core category of mid-size luxury sedans, while the Tesla Model Y has the potential to do the same in the mid-size SUV category.
Dr. Zetsche shared that the EQC isn’t just a new exterior, but that the elimination of the internal combustion engine takes away the sounds and personality that helped define Mercedes’ internal combustion line of vehicles.
Looking ahead to the future of the Mercedes and its EQ line, Dr. Zetsche noted that, “you’ll see it long before you ever hear it.” Like others, the brand seeks to pivot away from the carnal appeal of the exhaust towards the lucrative silence offered by electric vehicles. Ironically, it is that very same silence that Mercedes has worked so hard to achieve in the interior of its luxury vehicles in spite of the massive V8s and V10s that powered them.
The world premiere of the new Mercedes-Benz EQC makes it clear that the German auto industry is indeed pivoting towards electric vehicles, but that the behemoth of an industry does not move at the pace of a tech company. The announcement is also lacking in key details like production volumes, battery chemistry, battery suppliers, charging speeds, charging standards, and charging network buildouts.
These are the things that those of us in the industry know to look for beyond the glitz and the glamour of the keynote speeches, destination launch events, and CEO presentations. Electric cars are not your grandfather’s sedans and require us to think about different considerations as we assess new entrants to the market.
As we begin to explore this new world of electric vehicles, we must learn to speak a new language about a completely new industry. This new industry is not dominated by the brands we knew and trusted, like GM, Ford, BMW, Daimler, Porsche and Audi. Those brands are but infants in this new world dominated by kilowatts, kilowatt-hours, lithium-ion batteries, inverters, chargers, and EVSE.
This new planet is being led by the likes of BYD, Tesla, & the Renault-Nissan Alliance, while newcomers like Mercedes-Benz, Ford, VW, Porsche, and the like aren’t much more than glitzy PR campaigners building electric cars on top of one-off prototypes and striving to achieve in 2020 what Tesla did back in 2012 with the Model S. Their superchargers are but drawings in conference rooms and a few pilot installations.
Mercedes-Benz has its work cut out for it if it wants to continue to be a player in the automotive industry 10 years from now. Is the EQC enough? Probably not. It’s going to need a few more electric vehicle announcements in the months ahead to remain relevant as the new world of electric mobility is birthed.
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