“We are going to change the world,” says Jurgen Schenk, the director of E-Drive System Integration at Mercedes. “It’s the beginning of a new vehicle architecture. We think it will be a transformation.” Schenk is referring to a new long range electric vehicle lineup his company has under development.
Mercedes has crafted a skateboard style mechanical platform wrapped around a 1,000 pound lithium ion battery pack. It will have electric motors at both ends for all wheel drive, wireless charging, and an array of digital apps. It will also be capable of driving itself.
Mercedes announced last week that it is bringing a concept SUV based on the new architecture to the Paris auto show in September. It says its electric cars will have a range of 300 miles and can be recharged in 5 minutes — about the time it takes to pump a tankful of gasoline or diesel fuel today. It claims its new car will easily outperform the cars available from Tesla Motors.
“It’s the beginning of a new vehicle architecture. We think it will be a transformation,” says Schenk. “The first car will be on sale this decade. It will be followed by a wide range of vehicles, more and more.” Prices are expected to begin in the $70,000 range.
Schenk heads a 450 person development team that has been through six generations of electric car programs already. Most of them are electric versions of the diminutive Smart and are intended primarily for urban driving. The production version of the concept on display in Paris is not expected in showrooms until 2019. Let’s hope it doesn’t look anything like the ungainly and unlovely concept sketches Mercedes has been posting online over the past several months.
“We are going to transform the world. It will astonish you,” Schenk says. He claims the flexibility of the new architecture means any body style — he calls it “the hut” — can sit on top of the electric drive platform. It could be a luxury sedan or an SUV. It will be engineered so it can be built in any existing Mercedes factory. That is pretty much the same claim that Faraday Future is making for its cars.
Schenk also says that high performance electric cars will easily outpace existing turbocharged V8 cars produced by ihs company’s AMG division. “They could do it right now. It will be dangerous,” he laughs. “We can match the performance of any car on the road, and it’s easy.”
The internal combustion engine is still a big part of Mercedes’ plans, however. “The internal combustion engines are earning the money we need for the transformation,” Schenk says. “The planet will turn into an electric planet. We don’t know how fast the transformation is coming.”
Somebody who does know is Elon Musk. His company, Tesla Motors, already sells electric cars with dual motors and all wheel drive that have eye watering acceleration. If Mercedes is planning electric cars that can recharge in 5 minutes by the end of the decade, we can be fairly certain Musk and company will reach that milestone years before.
Nothing in Schenk’s boasts indicate that Mercedes or any other car company is about to out-innovate Tesla. At least not any time soon.