Despite the rosy (and admittedly alluring) predictions from analysts and journalists half a decade ago, the world doesn't appear to be moving towards a future of all-electric vehicles. Based on current trends, 20 years from now, gasoline, natural gas, fuel cells, diesel, and hybrids will still play a part in the car landscape. But that doesn't mean major automakers are giving up on EVs. The latest offering, the Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive, is actually the first all-electric vehicle sold by Mercedes in the U.S.
I took a spin in the new Mercedes EV, which has the body of a B-Class (a popular car in Europe) and a drivetrain built by Tesla. It's not a thrilling ride like the Tesla Model S, which is a more expensive car ($69,900 vs. $41,450). The B-Class is, however, a luxury Mercedes vehicle, and it feels like one. It's just a whole lot quieter.
The B-Class has a 28 kWh lithium-ion battery and takes two hours to charge up enough to go 60 miles. It has a range of 85 miles. Its biggest competitor is the electric BMW i3, which has a range of 80 to 100 miles and costs about the same price at $42,275. The Tesla Model S is significantly more expensive, but offers more than double the range—208 miles on a charge—for the cheapest model.
Even luxury-car aficionados probably aren't going to buy this car en masse. It's pricey for a vehicle that gets 85 miles to the charge and guarantees the lifespan of the on-board battery for just eight years or 100,000 miles. But the cost of eventually replacing a battery should also be compared to what a gasoline-powered car owner would spend repairing and maintaining a combustion engine, notes Bart Herring, general manager of product management at Mercedes Benz USA. "The math starts working closer than you’d think," he says.
This isn't an issue only with Mercedes. The BMW i3 only offers a similar eight-year/100,000-mile warranty, and Tesla offers an eight-year warranty for the Model S as well.
A lot of customers will want to lease the B-Class EV, eliminating issues about battery replacement, or use it as a second car for driving around town. And hopefully, in the not-so-distant future, EVs will start to make more financial sense to more people. The B-Class EV comes out this summer.