First of a Family of Mercedes-Benz EVs
At the IAA Mobility show which was recently held in Munich, Germany, Mercedes-Benz unveiled a concept car that not only closely previews the next-generation CLA, which will go all-electric, but also an entire family of electric vehicles. The concept CLA is based on an all-new modular electric car platform, while its styling previews elements we will see on the company’s entire range of electric models.
Electric CLA offers 466 Miles of Range
Mercedes says the electric CLA will be the first of four compact electric models – a sleek four-door sedan, a “shooting brake” wagon/hatchback, as well as two SUVs. All of the new EV models will be packed with new technologies that enhance comfort and safety, as well as exceptional range and sustainable materials and construction. The electric CLA is the headliner in terms of its long-distance capability and efficiency, with an EPA-estimated range of 466 miles on the European WLTP cycle and estimated energy consumption of 5.2 mpkWh.
Engineered with lessons learned from the record-setting Vision EQXX electric concept car, the new CLA will feature an 800-volt electrical architecture as well as a battery with exceptional energy density and a highly efficient electric motor. In single-motor form, the CLA is configured for sporty rear-wheel drive, but the car’s modular platform makes it easy to integrate a second motor for all-wheel drive, or for 4x4 applications in SUVs.
Brand-New Battery Chemistry
Mercedes calls its new all-electric platform MMA, for “Mercedes-Benz Modular Architecture,” and an innovative battery system is one of its highlights. Two different types of battery chemistries will be available. The most powerful and efficient features anodes that use silicon oxide for excellent energy density, while the more mainstream version uses lithium-iron-phosphate chemistry. New chemistry has allowed Mercedes to reduce the carbon footprint of cell manufacturing by 40 percent.
More importantly, Mercedes says that the new batteries have a very small overall volume, improving interior space and versatility for the vehicles they’re installed in. The batteries are installed using adhesive rather than screws, reducing weight and improving the strength of the crash structure. 800-volt electronics mean that the new CLA and its relatives will be able to charge at up to 250 kW, taking on 248 miles of range in 15 minutes on an appropriate charger.
A compact, powerful, and lightweight electric drive unit, which integrates the EV motor, transmission, and power electronics, was also developed from scratch in-house. In the CLA, the permanently-excited synchronous motor produces about 240 hp, and is actually paired with a two-speed transmission to improve acceleration as well as increase efficiency at higher cruising speeds. Despite the extra hardware, Mercedes says that the compact drive unit weighs less than 250 pounds, and delivers up to 93 percent efficiency from battery to wheel. The drive unit also uses much fewer rare earth metals than previous generations of electric motors.
Vehicle to Grid Technology
New software also will allow the CLA to work as an energy storage device, connected to the electrical grid. When connected to a compatible bi-directional charging station, the CLA can serve as an electricity supply for either vehicle-to-home or vehicle-to-grid uses. This means that, like the Ford F-150 Lightning, your car could power your home in the event of a power outage, or simply store electricity in its battery for use during peak hours, reducing your energy costs. Programming the car with your departure times and desired state of charge means you’ll always have enough juice for your next journey.
Inside the spacious, stylish interior of the CLA, you’ll find a large touch screen that spans almost two-thirds of the width of the dashboard. It runs an all-new operating system, dubbed MB.OS, which uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to make driving the car easier and more intuitive. The user interface can be tailored to the driver’s individual preferences, from the way the vehicle responds to throttle, steering, and brakes, to ambient lighting, sound, and even the graphics on the screens. A virtual assistant is also on hand to take voice commands. Thanks to the latest Nvidia hardware, the screens are crystal-clear, super-high resolution, and immediately responsive, and even offer passengers multiple video streaming and gaming options.
The CLA concept car also showcases Mercedes’ use of sustainable materials. Its structure is largely composed of steel that has been produced without the production of CO2, while the amount of CO2 used to produce its aluminum components has been reduced substantially. Interior fittings are largely recycled materials, and the leather upholstery has been sustainably sourced. The company feels that the next generation of buyers want to ensure their luxury doesn’t come with a big environmental cost.
Production of the new electric CLA and its companion vehicles will initially begin in three locations globally – Rastatt, Germany, Keckskemet, Hungary, and Beijing, China. The new production lines are currently being built in a digital environment, where they can be re-tooled, re-configured and optimized virtually before any physical work is completed – improving efficiency and reducing waste.
Interestingly, the new production lines, which Mercedes calls “MO360,” will allow the concurrent production of electric, hybrid, and gasoline-powered vehicles together. This means that production of EVs, and the overall mix of vehicles, can be easily adjusted to the demands of individual markets. Expect the first all-new, all-electric CLA models to land in the U.S. sometime in 2025.
All mileage is EPA-estimated.