In the next two years, Mercedes-Benz is getting serious about electric vehicles (EVs). The company is announcing six new EQ models globally between now and 2022, three new electric Smart models, and an electric version of its versatile Sprinter van that serves in a variety of roles — from people movers, to work vans, to RVs. This all relies on a global battery production network.
“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,” said Markus Schäfer, Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and Mercedes-Benz AG.
New EQ Models
Mercedes will be building six new EQ models by 2022. These are the EQA, EQB, EQS, EQE, and EQE and EQS SUVs. Details are still thin, as the formal reveals and announcements haven’t been made, but they did give us a little information about what’s coming up and tell us enough to know that they’re actually doing it (unlike Toyota).
The EQA and EQB will be compact cars, with the EQA’s announcement set for January 20th. This seems like a bad date to get much traction in the news (the US presidential inauguration is that day), but the whole world doesn’t revolve around us in the States.
This new vehicle (EQA) will be built in the Rastatt plant, and be built on the same lines as gas, hybrid, and plugin hybrid models. This is a common theme for MB’s approach to going electric, as the already-out EQC and EQV models (built at other plants) are built in the same fashion. EQA production will also begin next year in Beijing for the Chinese market.
The EQB will be a compact SUV. It doesn’t have an announced launch date, but we do know that it will be built in Hungary for the global market, and in Beijing for the Chinese market (like the EQA). Factory renovations are already in progress at both locations. Hybrid drive vehicles will also be built in the Hungarian factory. Mercedes says this will be the first BEV produced in the country.
The EQS will be an electric luxury sedan. It will be part of the new S-class program, and will share a plant with other upcoming Mercedes–Maybach vehicles. While the vehicle will start as the only vehicle on its line in Sindelfingen, Germany, it will eventually share the line with other upcoming gas and hybrid vehicles.
The EQE will also be a sedan, but aimed at business customers. It will be made in both Germany and China, and will be announced formally in the second half of 2021.
Finally, SUV versions of the EQE and EQS will be built in the United States (they know we love our rolling McMansions), at the Tuscaloosa plant in Alabama. Like all the others, lines will be shared with gas and hybrid vehicles.
New Smart Electric Models
Smart has been fully electric for a while, but several new/refreshed global models are coming out.
Details are even thinner on these, but three new Smart electric models will be made in Europe, and also made in a joint venture with Geely in China. This will include the Smart fortwo, Smart fortwo Cabrio, and Smart forfour. Mercedes did not release details on the timing of release for these upcoming vehicles.
New Electric Sprinter Van
If you start looking for Mercedes vans, you’ll see them everywhere. They’re delivering packages, hauling tools for plumbers and other repair businesses, and even serve as platforms for bigger box vehicles, like moving vans and even recreational vehicles (RVs). Mercedes vans have been a big hit in recent years for all of these segments because they’re reliable (going over 400,000 miles in some cases) and get pretty good mileage with their diesel engines.
Business and RV customers currently using their diesel vans are also going to be a big part of Mercedes-Benz’s push into offering BEV models. Built on the new Electric Versatility Platform, the new eSprinter will be based on a modular design, allowing it to serve segments of the market that gas/diesel versions were the option for in the past.
“The next generation eSprinter will enable us to make many more body variants available. This will ensure we meet the requirements of our customers across multiple sectors in the future, while offering the advantages of locally emission-free electric drive,” said Marcus Breitschwerdt, Head of Mercedes-Benz Vans. “The Sprinter has been demonstrating our competence in the transport field for a quarter of a century. In the field of electromobility, we have initiated many innovations in recent years. With the implementation of our accelerated electrification strategy, we’re combining the best of both worlds – our innovation and expertise!”
Details on things like battery sizes, power and torque, range, and charging speeds are not yet available, but again, Mercedes-Benz does seem to be taking this seriously and intends to produce.
We can expect a broad variety of vehicles powered by the Sprinter today to be available as an eSprinter tomorrow.
Battery Production Network
To show they’re really serious, Mercedes-Benz recently gave us some limited details on its battery production network. After all, you can’t build EVs unless you can power them!
Their goal is to build batteries as close to the factory as possible. By keeping things relatively local, they can avoid environmental impacts from transportation.
Two of their battery plants are in Kamenz, Germany. One of the sites has been open since 2012, making batteries for their hybrids and plugin hybrids. The second site opened up last year, and both sites are making packs for all types of EVs and hybrids. The second site was designed from the start to be carbon neutral, with solar energy and efficiency wherever possible.
Another site is a joint venture with BAIC in Beijing. They’re already supplying nearby EV production, and will ultimately supply batteries for the four models they’re planning on producing in the coming years in Beijing.
In 2020, they started a plant in Poland. It already produces batteries for Mercedes-Benz plugin hybrids, but will make packs for EQA and EQB models in the near future.
Other upcoming sites include Untertürkheim, Germany; Tuscaloosa, Alabama; Sindelfingen; and Bangkok, Thailand. All of these sites are in planning or construction.
Mercedes-Benz is Serious About EVs
With all of these new models, electrified existing models, and (most importantly) the production and battery plants to back them, it’s clear that Mercedes-Benz is serious. The company is taking concrete steps in the next 2–3 years to be a real player in the EV market.
Being an existing ICE car company, it makes sense that Mercedes would share production lines, and this minimizes the risk to demand fluctuations in the future. If they don’t get many orders for EVs at first, they can run the plant making ICE vehicles and hybrids most of the time, while keeping the capability to crank out more EVs. If they get more demand for EVs, they can turn down ICE production and crank out more EVs.
In other words, they’re not expecting to go all EV overnight, but they’re seriously gearing up for a transition. This shows that they’re not only serious, but are realistic about it and have a plan to get there.
Unlike other players, like Honda and Toyota, they’re making concrete plans for specific vehicles, have a plan to go from making a few to making a lot, and are currently testing. I think we can take Mercedes-Benz seriously now.
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