Mercedes, Working With Tesla, Will Launch A-Class Electric Car This Year

According to reports, Mercedes will introduce an all-electric version of its A-Class compact car at the 2010 Paris Auto Show in October. The A-Class E-Cell, as it’s called, will be made in a limited run of 500 units, mostly aimed at testing, and will start production early next year. Initially the car won’t be sold in showrooms, but will find its way into the hands of fleet customers and other customers that have shown an interest in plug-in vehicles.

As previously rumored, after significant investment by Daimler in Tesla, the two companies have developed the A-Class E-Cell in conjunction. In fact, it seems that most of the impetus behind the A-Class EV came from incessant and persistent pushing by Tesla to make it happen.

Writing for the NY Times Wheels Blog, Jim Motavalli was able to squeeze some information out of both Mercedes and Tesla prior to the official announcement on September 15th. The car will be built in Germany, at Daimler’s Rastatt plant. The battery pack—a 40 kWh pack made up of 4,000 individual cells—and controller will both be made by Tesla and shipped to the plant prior to assembly. With that setup, Daimler says they have targeted a range of 124 miles.

To convince the somewhat cautious Daimler execs that an electric A-Class was feasible, Tesla bought a conventional one in Europe last year, shipped it to the US and then spent its own time and energy to convert the car to an electric one powered by Tesla components in a matter of weeks. After they did the conversion, they invited the Daimler folks to California for a test drive.

“They were blown away,” said JB Straubel, Tesla’s chief technical officer in the Wheels Blog post. “They saw that it wasn’t a science program. For them, touching and seeing was believing. The whole thing changed after that, and we moved to a real development program.”

Motavalli had a chance to take a short test drive in the A-Class E-Cell prototype in California, although he thinks the word “prototype” can only used loosely here. “The car did indeed both handle and accelerate very well,” he wrote. “Squeaks and rattles were at a minimum, and it felt like a production-ready car.”

Of course, as most Americans know, we don’t have access to the conventional A-Class here in the States, so the chances we will ever see this car here are very slim. Yet, it’s a testament to Tesla that they were able to prototype and deliver a production ready vehicle so quickly. It gives me some hope that the Tesla deal with Toyota to bring an updated RAV4 EV to market in 2012 is much more than hot air.

Source: Wheels Blog

Nick Chambers

Not your traditional car guy.