While critics were skeptical of Daimler’s purchase of Tesla stock several years ago, the investment is paying off big time. But while Daimler and Tesla are already working together on an all-electric Mercedes B-Class, the German auto conglomerate wants to work even closer with the California-based electric car maker, hoping to compete with the popular BMW i3.
Tesla is building the 36 kWh battery for the Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive, which the company estimates will provide between 115 and 125 miles of driving range per charge, as well as batteries for the shorter-range Smart ForTwo Electric Drive. That’s about 40 to 50 miles more than competitors like the Nissan Leaf or Fiat 500e, though Mercedes chief rival is the BMW i3, with its 100 mile all-electric range and 200-mile extended driving range.
The BMW i3 already has months and months of backorders in Germany, and other markets are also eager to get behind the wheel. Mercedes, which wants to rival BMW in terms of profitability, is waking up to the realization that electric and hybrid vehicles are going to play a huge role in many high-end markets like the U.S., where Tesla is currently raking in the sales. Yet for some reason Daimler went with its own battery pack for its SLS AMG Electric Drive supercar, which has just 155 miles of range despite a massive battery pack and price tag, rather than a Tesla pack. Maybe that experience is why they’re so keen to work with Tesla.
But how does Tesla feel about helping a major rival develop a competitive vehicle? Elon Musk has been uncharacteristically quiet on the matter, though with a Daimler member sitting on the board of directors, the company might not have much choice in the matter. But it isn’t like Tesla won’t make boku bucks off of such a deal. It makes one wonder though if Daimler might not be another potential buyer for Tesla Motors when the time comes.
For my money though, I’d rather just go with the Model S than a Mercedes knock-off.