Monday, June 23, 2008

Daimler Plans All-Electric Models For 2010

By Chris Haak


According to an article published in German magazine Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Saturday, Daimler AG CEO Dieter Zetsche said that his company plans to sell both an electric-only Smart car for 2010 as well as a Mercedes-badged electric car for the same model year. (Click for the original German or roughly translated English versions of the article).

According to the article, no decision has been made on pricing, which Zetsche said depended in large part on whether the expensive batteries are sold along with the cars, or leased separately from the cars themselves. Those of us who haven't grown completely tired of all of the news releases regarding the Chevrolet Volt plug-in electric car with a range-extending internal combustion engine may recall that a while ago, GM said that it too was considering leasing the batteries to owners to keep the purchase price at a more reasonable level. GM hasn't said much about leasing the batteries lately to my knowledge, but aside from the upfront price advantage, a leased battery would likely be the responsibility of the owner to replace if there should be some sort of problem with it.

To me, the most ironic twist about this news is that Mercedes may be phasing out a platform (the stacked chassis underpinning its vertically-oriented A-class small car) that would be perfect for holding the extra batteries and componentry required by an electric vehicle. The next-generation A-class is supposed to be moving to a more conventional layout to better compete with the Audi A3 and BMW 1-series.

News that Daimler will sell an electric Smart car is interesting in that the current gasoline-powered model sold in the US gets pretty mediocre fuel economy considering that the car is grossly underpowered according to nearly all reviews. An electric drivetrain would of course limit range in the city car, but most of them probably aren't taken far from the confines of the cities they "live" in anyway (though over the weekend, I saw a Smart ForTwo on the Pennsylvania Turnpike buzzing along with traffic in the oncoming direction. I'm curious as to how well Daimler will be able to incorporate the batteries into the Smart, since it already has little cargo capacity to sacrifice in the name of battery storage.

In the same interview, Zetsche said that he expected the internal combustion engine to disappear within 20-30 years, but that he hoped to market a fuel cell vehicle in limited numbers by 2010 as well.

As other publications have noted previously, 2010 is supposed to be a heck of an interesting year in the auto industry. Nearly every manufacturer is promising some sort of well-performing, cost-effective, ground-breaking vehicle for the 2010 model year. We'll know very soon who will be able to deliver on those numerous promises.

No comments: