Mercedes-Benz announced this week it plans to introduce 6 new battery electric models to its EQ brand lineup by the end of 2022 and is making major upgrades at 6 factories around the world to produce them. It is also investing in battery production at facilities nearby those 6 factories. The EQC SUV and EQV electric van are already in production and on sale.
Mercedes board member Markus Schäfer told the press this week, “With its ‘Electric First’ strategy, Mercedes-Benz is consistently on the path to CO₂ neutrality and is investing heavily in transformation. Our vehicle portfolio becomes electric and thus also our global production network with vehicle and battery factories. We intend to lead in the field of e-mobility and focus in particular on battery technology. We are taking a comprehensive approach, ranging from research and development to production, and also including strategic cooperation.”
Mercedes has released few details about powertrains, equipment levels and pricing, and all of the photos available show camouflaged vehicles only. Here’s what we know so far:
The EQA will be a first cousin to the GLA crossover. In fact, the GLA is due to get a styling makeover this year and it is likely the two vehicles will be visually similar. The EQA is slated to be revealed in January and go on sale globally in 2021. It will be assembled alongside the GLA at the Mercedes factories located in Rastatt, Germany and Beijing, China. According to Car and Driver, it will be available in three trim levels — Progressive, Premium, and Advanced — with prices starting around $50,000, $55,000, and $60,000 respectively.
The EQA and GLA will share the same platform. Mercedes is very proud of the fact that it can build conventional cars, plug-in hybrid cars, and electric cars on the same assembly line, which allows the company to adjust rapidly to the demands of the marketplace. But it also represents a less than wholehearted embrace of the EV revolution at a time when other manufacturers like Volkswagen and Hyundai/KIA are moving away from one size fits all platforms to dedicated electric car chassis designs.
The EQB will be the electric version of the GLB — a somewhat boxier version of the GLA with more carrying capacity thanks to its squared off shape. Production is expected to begin later next year at the Kecskemét factory in Hungary and in Beijing. It seems fair to say the EQA and the EQB will be closely related under the skin.
The EQS will be the battery electric counterpart to the Mercedes S Class sedan. The company gets a two-fer with this car, as it will also be available in an SUV version as well. Mercedes touts them as two of the six new EVs it is bringing to market but really it is the same car dressed up in two different sets of clothes. Unlike the EQA and EQB which will share the same platform as the GLA and GLB, the EQS will be the first Mercedes to make use of the company’s newly developed dedicated chassis for electric vehicles. It will feature dual motors and offer excellent if not stunning performance.
The EQS is scheduled to begin production at Factory 56 in Sindelfingen, Germany in the first half of 2021. The company says building the EQS will be 25% more efficient than building the S Class sedan, which is also assembled in Sindelfingen. Prices for the range topping electric sedan are expected to start at $96,000 according to Car and Driver. The SUV version of the EQS is expected to begin at Sindelfingen and Mercedes’ Tuscaloosa, Alabama factory in 2022.
Mercedes gets another two-fer with the battery electric EQE which will be available as both a sedan and an SUV. The SUV variant will also be built in Alabama as well as as the factory in Bremen, Germany. Production is set to begin in Bremen in the second half of 2021 and in Alabama in 2022. The car will also be produced at the factory in Beijing, China.
These new models (really three if you don’t count the twins and close cousins), when added to the EQC and the EQV, will bring the total number of models in the EQ lineup to eight. Customers love choices and some people will select an electric car from Mercedes simply because, you know, it’s a Mercedes! Anything that drives the EV revolution forward is welcome news.
Mercedes is keen to point out in its press release that in addition to building electric cars, it has created a number of battery assembly factories where cells from various outside suppliers are made into battery packs. There are two plants in Kamenz, Germany, the first of which has been producing battery systems for hybrids, plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles since 2012. The second began operations in 2018 and has been producing the EQC’s battery systems for the EQC (which was supposed to go on sale in the US this year but hasn’t made it across the pond yet) since 2019.
Mercedes-Benz and BAIC jointly operate a battery production facility at the Yizhuang Industrial Park in Beijing which has supplied battery systems for the EQC since 2019 as well as other electrified Mercedes models sold in China. A battery factory in Jawor, Poland started producing plug-in hybrid batteries for various Mercedes models this year and will expand production to include battery systems for the EQA and the EQB next year.
Two new battery manufacturing facilities are under construction in Hedelfingen and Brühl. They will supply batteries for the EQS and EQE and for Mercedes plug-in hybrids starting in 2022. A battery plant is currently being built near the Tuscaloosa factory and will supply battery systems for US made EQS and EQE SUV cars.
Is Mercedes putting its shoulder to the wheel to move the EV revolution forward aggressively? Sort of. It says it will invest $70 billion to bring EVs to market, pursue autonomous driving technologies, and lower carbon emissions from its manufacturing facilities and supply chains. $70 billion is no small sum. Yet at the end of the day, it seems Mercedes is still slow walking its way into the future while keeping one eye firmly focused on the past. And who can blame them? The conventional cars it sells today will help pay for the electric cars that are on their way tomorrow.
When you boil it down, the six new electric models it says will flesh out the EQ stable are really three new models. The EQC is having significant problems getting out of the gate. Perhaps we should acknowledge that new technology always comes with teething issues and applaud Mercedes for getting started. Mistakes, after all, are the best teachers. It will be interesting to see whether the electric vehicle timelines the company has set for itself will be met and whether people will actually step up to the plate and buy its electric cars. In about 18 months, we should know.