The Mercedes-Benz EQC will set the direction for the German automaker’s upcoming rollout of electric vehicles.
As one of 10 electrified models scheduled to launch by 2022, the EQC headlines the German automaker’s new, all-electric EQ sub-brand, which will span full-size crossovers to Smart brand-sized compacts. The new product portfolio will focus on connected, digital services that bring conveniences such as optimized navigation routes and pre-entry climate control to the cabin.
The five-passenger EQC 400 midsize luxury crossover, which made its U.S. debut earlier this month at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, goes on sale early next year.
The sporty SUV runs on an 80-kilowatt-hour battery and a pair of electric motors to deliver a combined output of 402 horsepower and an estimated range of 279 miles on the European NEDC cycle. Besides the crossover’s green credential, Mercedes is touting its ample cargo room and trailer hitch.
‘The end of compromise’
“It’s the end of compromise,” said Leonhard Gebel, product manager for the new model. “It’s a real Mercedes, but it’s electric.”
The EQC sports a muscular profile, coupe-like, extended roofline and low shoulder. Its Night Design features a glowing Mercedes star set against the black panel grille and exterior lights that create the impression of a continuous horizontal light band, allowing the car to visually pop in the dark.
Looks aside, the automaker says it’s focusing its message on Mercedes’ reputation for safety, luxury and quality as well as on the vehicle’s practicality and the electric drivetrain’s capability. By the EQC’s 2020 launch, Mercedes will have tested 200 prototypes and preproduction versions across several million miles through North America, Europe, Asia and Africa.
To EV or not to EV
“Sometimes we have customers who are a little scared,” said Bastian Schult, testing engineer for the EQC line. “They ask, ‘Is it practical for me to drive an electric vehicle or not?’ ”
To assuage concerns over range anxiety, Schult and Gebel point to the EQC’s recent, 228-mile roundtrip test drive between Silicon Valley and Big Sur. Even weighed down with four adult passengers, the crossover returned with 7 percent of its battery charge remaining.
Mercedes configured the electric drivetrain to reduce power consumption by engineering the front electric motor for efficiency and the rear for sportiness. The compact electric drivetrains at each axle give the EQC the handling of an all-wheel drive vehicle. The SUV also comes with five modes to tune driving dynamics: comfort, eco, max range, sport and individual.
Mercedes says the car will travel from 0 to 60 mph in 4.9 seconds, with an electronically limited top speed of 112 mph. The battery will require around 40 minutes to charge from 10 percent to 80 percent.
The car will feature the automaker’s most recent version of its digital Mercedes me connect suite of services as well as its new MBUX – short for Mercedes-Benz User Experience – natural voice recognition and multimedia system. The interface will provide information specific to Mercedes’ EVs including range, energy flow and charge status.
“In the past, some people yelled at their cars like a drill sergeant breaking in new recruits,” said Ola Källenius, research and development chief for the automaker’s corporate parent, Daimler, noting that the new system understands and interprets natural speech patterns and colloquial language.
$23 billion investment
Daimler plans to invest $23 billion on battery cells for future vehicles through 2030. The EQC will be manufactured in Bremen, Germany, on a flexible production line that produces C-Class and GLC models. Future SUV models for the EQ brand will be produced at Mercedes’ Tuscaloosa, Ala., plant. A primary challenge for the automaker is to ramp up its battery-production facilities at its plant near Dresden, Germany, to meet the EQ lineup’s growing demand, Gebel said.
Mercedes’ rivals are also pouring money into electrifying their lineups. BMW plans to offer 25 hybrid and electric vehicles by 2025, including the iNext crossover in 2021. Audi plans to deliver a dozen fully electric models by 2025. Its first EV, the e-Tron midsize SUV, goes on sale this spring. Meanwhile, Cadillac plans to launch a fully electric midsize luxury crossover as the first vehicle built on General Motors’ new platform.
Sales of electric vehicles are expected to make up 6 percent of the U.S. new vehicle market by 2025, up from 1 percent in 2018, according to analytics firm IHS Markit. More than half of those sales are expected to come from electric SUVs because their size renders them practical enough to be used as the primary vehicle for some households.
“I think everyone agrees that electric cars are the future,” Gebel said. “Nobody knows what’s going on in these years.”