Mercedes-Benz readies Tesla fighter
Mercedes-Benz has launched its first production electric vehicle as the industry ramps up its assault on Tesla.
Dubbed the EQC, it is just the first in a long line of Mercedes EVs that will swamp the market in the next five years.
The EQC shares basic underpinnings with the tried and tested C-Class and GLC SUV.
The mid-size electric SUV will go head-to-head with the likes of the Tesla Model X and the coming Jaguar I-Pace, due in October.
The EQC follows a similar format to the all-wheel drive Tesla and Jaguar with an electric motor powering each axle. The dual electric motors endow the SUV with deep power reserves making a combined 300kW and 765Nm.
Top speed is limited to 180km/h and it can sprint from a standstill to 100km/h in 5.1 seconds.
An 80kWh battery gives the EQC a claimed range of more than 450km. The vehicle can be charged at home via regular power point or a Mercedes-Benz installed Wallbox for increased speed.
The quickest possible top-up is by a direct current fast-charging station which can add 70 per cent battery life in 40 minutes.
However, selection of the Comfort, Eco, Sport and Max Range driving modes will have a big bearing on how far that charges lasts. In the more economical modes, the EQCs uses a haptic accelerator pedal, which vibrates to prompt the driver to take the foot off and coast.
The EQC features the brand's latest cockpit format, which is dominated by two large digital monitors running lengthwise along the dash.
Its infotainment tech, known as MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Expereience) employs artificial intelligence to learn a driver's habits and preferences to tailor the infotainment and in-car functionality to suit.
MBUX can understand that a driver prefers certain radio stations at different times of the day or often makes particular phone calls on the way to or from work and will send pertinent prompts.
Production of the EQC is due to start next year and Australian deliveries - with prices tipped to start from about $100,000 - are most likely to arrive at the end of 2019 or early 2020. Full details will be revealed closer to the local launch date.
However, this is just the beginning for Mercedes-Benz. The EQC is just the first of 10 electric models planned to enter production by 2022.
Next up is the EQA compact hatch. The urban focused EV, shown in concept form at the 2017 Frankfurt motor show, is expected to be revealed in production guise next year.
"With the EQC - the first fully electric SUV from Mercedes-Benz - we are flipping the switch," says Mercedes-Benz chairman Dieter Zetsche.
"Electric drive is a major component in the mobility of the future. We are therefore investing more than 10 billion euros in the expansion of our EQ model portfolio, and more than one billion euros in global battery production."
Australians for now starved of electric vehicles. The cheapest option is the pint-sized Renault Zoe, priced from $47,490 before on-roads. The Zoe was originally only available to fleet buyers but has since been opened to the public.
"As at the end of June 2018, our sales to fleet customers this year have surpassed our initial sales projections," says Renault Australia boss Andrew Moore. "Since commencing sales to fleets in late 2017, we've seen demand from a passionate group of customers who would like the opportunity to purchase a Renault electric vehicle and we're thrilled to now be able to offer this."
The next most affordable EV is the BMW i3 which starts at $68,700.
Tesla has the Model X SUV and the Model S luxury sedan, each costing more than $100,000. Both models are one of the better known EVs in the local market and benefit form the brand of cool that surrounds Tesla and its enigmatic boss Elon Musk.
However, Tesla needs a more affordable option to become a prominent player in the future and the $60,000-plus Model 3 is still 18 months away at the earliest.
Other brands will beat Benz to the showrooms.
Jaguar is launching its I-Pace SUV in October with prices starting from $119,900. The Indian-owned British badge's first EV stacks up favourably compared to the EQC with a larger battery providing better performance and slightly longer range.
Audi has yet to reveal its e-tron electric SUV in full but it has started production of the mid-size zero-emission vehicle at its factory in Belgium.
The Audi claims super-fast charging with an 80 per cent top-up in just 30 minutes. Its futuristic digital side mirrors display on monitors on the inside of each door.
Hyundai may have the biggest effect on the market when it brings the cut-price electric Kona SUV and Ioniq small car to Australia.
The Kona has been confirmed to arrive here early next year and the maker is aiming for a sub-$50,000 price tag when it lands in showrooms.
The little SUV is claimed to have range of 482km/h which trumps all electric cars but the Teslas.
Hyundai is finalising the Ioniq range of two hybrids (one of them a plug-in) and an EV. The Ioniqs will have a much shorter range and will be more urban focused.
The Nissan Lead is back for its second crack at the Australian market. The urban runabout is the highest selling EV in the world but it failed to generate many sales the first time down under.