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Mercedes Doubles Down On NEDC Range Claim For EQC

A controversy has arisen over the actual range of the Mercedes EQC. Officially the company says 450 km or 279 miles. But in its press release, it says “about 200 miles” repeatedly. Which is it?

Mercedes Benz has managed to make what was supposed to be a splashy introduction for its new EQC 400 electric SUV into a public relations disaster. As it turns out, people within the company can’t agree on what the range of the car will have. At the big reveal in Sweden this week, Mercedes declared the EQC would have a range of 450 kilometers, which translates to 279 miles. If true, that would mean the EQC can go farther on a full battery than a Tesla Model X or a Jaguar I-PACE.

Mercedes EQC

The Devil In The Details

But scattered throughout the 52-page press release that accompanied the official unveiling, the company said repeatedly the EQC range is “about 200 miles.” So which is it — 279 miles or “about” 200? The difference shouldn’t matter all that much to most drivers. 200 miles of range is enough for a week’s worth of normal driving. Lots of factors are actually far more important to electric car drivers, such as where are the nearest charging stations and how long does it take to recharge the battery after it is plugged in?

When buying a car with an internal combustion engine, the one statistic everyone wants to know is gas mileage. 99% of buyers really don’t care about miles per gallon. They are buying a vehicle that conforms to their self image. But when they tell their friends and neighbors about that brand new Belchfire 5000 in the driveway, the first question is always, “What does it get for mileage?”

Gasmobiles are defined by mpg. But in the world of electric cars, the one parameter that defines them all is range. More is good. Less is bad. And under 200 miles for an electric SUV from a premium manufacturer with a premium price tag would be a flat out disaster for the company.

Goodbye NEDC, Hello WLTP

The problem, as you probably guessed, is the standard used to measure range. The 450 kilometer figure touted by Mercedes is based on the New European Driving Cycle or NEDC. This standard involves no actual real world testing. It is a theoretical calculation developed back in the 80s that has been widely discredited over the years.

In fact, a new standard, the Worldwide Harmonized Light Vehicle Test Procedure, or WLTP, is set to become the official standard in Europe at the end of this month. WLTP is supposed to be a more accurate indicator of real world performance but it is still believed to give more optimistic results than the EPA standard used in the United States.

The folks at The Verge noticed the discrepancy and reached out to Mercedes for clarification. “We use NEDC to evaluate range to facilitate comparisons,” a Mercedes spokesperson told them. “The 450 km NEDC approximation is all we have at the time being.” So where did the “about 200 miles” figure come from? No doubt, some minion who used to work at Mercedes is now out of a job. Mercedes has some serious egg on its face and it is not pleased that the range controversy is detracting from the overall goodness of its new electric SUV.

A Mistake Was Made

The EQC will not be in most dealer showrooms until 2020 at the earliest. The car has not been rated by the EPA as of yet and probably won’t be until it gets closer to its on-sale date in America. Mercedes says any reference to “about 200 miles” of range was a mistake and people should pay no attention to it.

But for you math jocks out there, 450 km of range NEDC converts to 279 miles. As a rough rule of thumb, EPA numbers can be up to 30% less than NEDC. 70% of 279 pencils out to 195 miles. Perception is reality, so they say. If the EQC hits American shores with an EPA rating of less than 200 miles, that is going to be a full-on marketing disaster for Mercedes. Many would-be buyers will be dissuaded by such a low number, concluding — quite rightly — that the EQC is not a “compelling electric car,” especially if it is priced higher than a comparable Model X or I-PACE.

Stay tuned. This saga will be playing out over the next 18 months. We can be sure of one thing. Between now and the on-sale date, Mercedes will be moving heaven and earth to get the range numbers for the EQC up to a level most buyers will find acceptable. The difference between the EQC and its competition may not be large in the greater scheme of things, but range is the very first filter an electric car must pass through in order to capture the attention of a potential buyer. Mercedes has a lot of work to do in order to make this controversy go away.

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Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. 3000 years ago, Socrates said, "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." Perhaps it's time we listened?


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