For a company that has built a reputation on technical innovation, Mercedes has been uncharacteristically slow to launch a series-production electric car.
Now that it has and the Mercedes EQC crossover SUV is finally with us, it couldn’t have picked a location for the international press launch better than Oslo for highlighting just how long it has dallied. Here, every other car you see is electric. If London was the same, you’d probably have to take it in turns with your neighbours to boil your kettle on weekday evenings, after everyone in the city had arrived home and plugged in.
Because Mercedes is Mercedes, of course – the oldest name in the car business and still the most revered around much of the world, and now the biggest-selling premium automotive brand in the world, too – it’s still a big deal whenever it does anything for the first time. For accuracy’s sake, though, we’d better put ‘first’ in inverted commas; there have been a handful of electric cars from Smart already, and an electric A-Class called the E-Cell that was ‘sold’ in very small numbers about ten years ago.
This, nonetheless, will be the first electric Mercedes that’ll be built in its hundreds of thousands. At least, I think it’s a Mercedes. As the first car from its EQ sub-brand, the EQC looks a bit like a Mercedes – it’s closely related to the GLC and you can certainly see the resemblance. But it also looks a bit like a generic mid-sized crossover SUV which, to these eyes at least, might have been designed by Renault or Hyundai – or even Saab.
Is that a problem, I wonder, in a market in which design may be about to become a vitally important selling point? It might be; or maybe it’s just our present perspective talking. Either way, if people look at the EQC and fail to recognize it as a Mercedes until it’s close enough to see the star on the grille, as I fear they might, you wonder if it will really fulfill its potential. We'll see.
How does the EQC stack up to its electric rivals?
The EQC is, in prospect, a mid-sized SUV that’s actually about 100mm longer than a Mercedes GLC, although still only a five-seater. With slightly different electric motors mounted on each axle, the car has electronically torque-vectored four-wheel drive. The front motor has a less tightly wound stator for better operating efficiency, the rear one a more tightly wound one for greater torque. When cruising, the EQC is driven almost exclusively by the front motor.