the first European car manufacturers smart and Mercedes-Benz are
entering the age of electric mobility with vehicles that are fully
suitable for everyday use. The new smart fortwo electric drive has
taken on a pioneering role among battery-powered electric vehicles.
With a range of up to 135 kilometres the two-seater car is the ideal
solution for zero-emission motoring in towns and cities. The
Mercedes-Benz B-Class F-CELL is the perfect complement. As an electric
vehicle with a fuel cell it combines driving without any local
emissions with the advantage of a large range of up to 400 kilometres
which makes it suitable for longer trips as well. Both vehicles are now
being handed over to customers.
Dr. Dieter Zetsche, Daimler CEO and Head of
Mercedes-Benz cars says "As a global supplier of premium cars we want
to meet the mobility requirements of our customers all over the world.
This is why we are broadly positioned and have developed a modular
drive mix to suit different requirements. The smart fortwo electric
drive and the Mercedes-Benz B-Class F-CELL are already demonstrating
the contribution that electric cars can make to sustainable mobility.
Experts are unanimous in their belief that the
"coexistence" of different drive technologies will shape the face of
road traffic for years to come. This is why Daimler's approach is to
develop vehicle concepts with modular drive technologies which ensure
that the focus is always on both customer benefits
and environmental compatibility. In addition to
the optimisation of vehicles with state-of-the-art combustion engines
and further efficiency increases with hybridisation tailored to
customer needs, the third central focus of development is on fuel cell
and battery-powered vehicles that do not produce any local emissions.
Dr. Thomas Weber, Daimler AG board member responsible for Group
Research and Development at Mercedes-Benz Cars says "Each of these
technologies demonstrates its advantages with regard to optimum
consumption and emission figures in specific fields of application. We
are the only manufacturer worldwide to offer our customers appropriate
solutions for all fields of application – from personal mobility to
local public transport and goods transport on the roads."
Electric cars are now being delivered to customers
With the electric cars from smart and
Mercedes-Benz that are fully suitable for everyday use, zero-emission
driving is already a reality. The new smart fortwo electric drive is a
pioneer among battery electric vehicles which are primarily suited to
use in urban areas. The second generation is already being built and
now boasts a highly efficient lithium-ion battery which enables a range
of 135 kilometres and impressive performance. Following the start of
series production in Hambach, France in mid November 2009, the first
small series of 1000 vehicles will be handed over to customers in
Berlin on 17 December. The two-seater car will initially be delivered
to selected customers in six European countries plus the USA and Canada
within the framework of a leasing or rental model. Volume production
will start in 2012 and the smart fortwo electric drive will then be
available to anyone interested.
Thanks to its range of around 400 kilometres,
the Mercedes-Benz B-Class F-CELL is suitable for both zero-emission
driving in city traffic and also for travelling longer distances. Small
series production of this electric car has also started. Next year the
first of approximately 200 vehicles will be delivered to customers in
Europe and the USA.
Both electric cars are fully suitable for
everyday use. All the main components are housed in a space-saving
position between the axles where they are optimally protected, and this
means that the interior space is not compromised in the electric
versions of the standard cars. Furthermore, the smart – the ultimate
city car – has an extremely comfortable range for city driving and it
can be charged at any household socket. The B-Class F-CELL offers a
large range and is suitable for travelling longer distances as well. As
its hydrogen tanks can be fully refuelled in around three minutes it is
also the electric car with the shortest charging time.
Infrastructure is essential
An appropriate refuelling and electricity
charging infrastructure is essential for wide customer acceptance and
quick widespread use of electric vehicles. This is why Daimler is
committed to setting up a comprehensive network of electricity charging
stations and hydrogen filling stations. In September 2009 together with
the Federal Ministry of Transport and partners from the energy sector
the company presented a plan for establishing a hydrogen infrastructure
in Germany. At the same time Daimler reached an agreement with other
leading car manufacturers to bring several hundred thousand fuel cell
cars to the roads from 2015.
Parallel to this, together with various partners
in Europe the Stuttgart car manufacturer is advancing the expansion of
a public electricity charging infrastructure. This is because although
electric vehicles like the smart fortwo electric drive can easily be
charged at a domestic garage socket, around 40 percent of European
vehicle owners do not have a parking space of their own. Publicly
accessible charging stations are therefore needed. To enable this to be
realised Europe-wide as far as possible with standardised framework
conditions, Daimler is developing corresponding standards together with
other car manufacturers and utility companies.
Electric mobility – an affordable alternative?
New technologies generally entail high
investments and costs. This means that at the current stage of
development electric cars are still more expensive than comparable
models with combustion engines. Daimler is applying all available
levers to reduce the costs to a level that is economically acceptable
and attractive to customers. For example, by industrialising
lithium-ion technology with the company Deutsche Accumotive GmbH and
the economies of scale resulting from this. Furthermore, in product
development Daimler is systematically using a modular E-drive system.
This enables synergies to be ideally used between the different vehicle
There are also numerous other factors that make
electric mobility attractive for customers. Tax relief and other
government subsidies are an important aspect. For example, the state of
Monaco offers tax relief of up to €9,000 to electric car owners. Other
countries have also set up funding programmes for sustainable mobility.
France offers a "super environment incentive" of €5000 for vehicles
that emit less than 60 grams of CO2 per kilometre. China and Japan have
announced subsidies of €6,500 and €11,000 respectively.
Customers benefit from lower running costs
In addition, owners of electric cars can benefit
from lower running costs. For example, in Germany the electricity costs
for a distance of 100 kilometres currently stand at between two and
three euros. And many experts believe that in the long-term the costs
for hydrogen will level out at a price that makes it an inexpensive
alternative to fossil fuels.
However, the question of the future taxation of
new fuels has not yet been clarified. Dr. Thomas Weber says "It would
make sense to find a solution that supports the introduction of new
drives during the transitional period – for example with temporary tax
exemption for electricity and hydrogen, just as various countries offer
tax relief today for natural gas used to power vehicles."
For example, electric cars like the smart fortwo
electric drive are exempted from the city congestion charge in London,
enabling their owners to save considerable sums of money.
Dr. Joachim Schmidt, Head of Sales and Marketing
at Mercedes-Benz Cars says "All things considered we see good prospects
for electric mobility with fuel cells and batteries. Whilst other
companies are still presenting electric show cars, we at smart and
Mercedes-Benz are already bringing two vehicles that are fully suitable
for everyday use to the roads."