Mercedes-Benz has shown an electric vehicle – in styling, performance, desirability or exclusivity – can compete with the best vehicles currently on the road.
The Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG E-Cell all but sweeps aside any argument that electric vehicles can’t be as awesome as their gasoline counterparts.
Yes, the E-Cell is frightfully expensive. And yes, range is still an issue. It is an electric vehicle — and a prototype at that — after all, and those two things remain the technology’s Achilles heel. But Mercedes has shown an electric vehicle can, by any measure, be it styling, performance, desirability or exclusivity, compete with the best vehicles currently on the road.
Consider what Mercedes has done: The E-Cell makes 526 horsepower and 649 pound feet of torque and it can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in four seconds. To be fair, those figures are provided by Mercedes, but they’re firmly in supercar territory.
According to Automobile magazine, the electric SLS rides on the same aluminum space frame as the conventional AMG SLS, and Mercedes was able to place the drivetrain components for optimal weight distribution. The lithium-polymer battery (no size given) sits in front of the firewall, in the center tunnel and behind the seats. That keeps mass low and centralized to improve handling. The motors — one for each wheel — also are down low.
Because there is no exhaust system, Mercedes was able to tweak the front air splitter and rear diffuser to give the car more downforce for better handling at speed. Of course it’s got regenerative braking, and ceramic composite rotors — 18.5-inchers up front, 14.2 at the rear.
No word from either Automobile or Germany’s AutoBild — which has driven the prototype — on the battery’s output, range or recharge time, but AutoBild says it uses 324 cells. Mercedes has already said the car will see production in 2013, and AutoBild says it’ll probably run somewhere around 250,000 pounds. That’s about $307,000 at today’s exchange rate.
Yes, it will be expensive as hell. And yes, Mercedes will probably build only a handful. But the technology almost certainly will trickle down to the hybrids and electric vehicles the rest of us will one day buy, just as other technology born or supercars — paddle shifters and traction control come to mind — now appear in cars like the Honda CR-Z hybrid.
And by building the AMG SLS E-Cell, Mercedes — like Porsche with the 918, Audi with the e-Tron and, yes, Tesla Motors with the Roadster — is showing we aren’t consigned to a future full of pedestrian EVs like the Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Volt and Coda Automotive Coda.
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