Mercedes has extended the life of its unique sandwich-floor platform, which underpins the current Mercedes A-class and B-class, by creating a three-tier range of electric cars using the same platform.
The cars will be grouped under the BlueZERO name.
The range will consist of a pure battery model called E-Cell with a range of around 120 miles, a ‘range-extender’ model with a small internal combustion charging motor (the Smart’s 1.0-litre three-cylinder unit) called E-Cell Plus that can do 370 miles (60 miles on battery alone), and a fuel-cell variant called F-Cell, also with a range of 250 miles between fuel stops.
The project, announced in Detroit this week, is spearheaded by a new-look prototype with modern styling but obvious B-class proportions.
Mercedes engineers say that the double-floor layout, designed 10 years ago, is ideal for housing the lithium-ion battery bank, control electronics and single rear-drive motor that all models use. Each model retains full cabin and boot space and meets current crash standards.
The electric motor produces a maximum output of 100kW (the equivalent of 134bhp) plus 235lb ft of torque from standstill. Despite weighing ‘considerably more’ than today’s B-class, the BlueZERO models can reach 62mph in 11 seconds, and hit a top speed of 93mph.
Mercedes is working on experimental fuel-cell models already, but the first to production will be the E-Cell, which will be sold in small numbers later this year.
The E-Cell Plus follows next year, but Mercedes is yet to put a date on the fuel-cell model.