There’s an electric car revolution going on behind the heavily cloaked development centres of many of the world’s car makers right now – as evidenced by Mercedes-Benz's surprise announcement that a plug-in electric version of its upcoming SLS is already in the works and has been since the outset of its development.
Although not envisaged to go into limited production until 2015, the SLS eDrive is a clear signal of where Mercedes-Benz and its AMG performance car offshoot thinks the motoring world is heading. For while its officials continue to vigorously extol the virtues of petrol and diesel engines – the very ground on which its existing models are based, there is a growing feeling within the German car maker’s engineering ranks that the time for widespread electric and hybrid car usage is not too far off at all.
And, by the look at just how advanced its new electric powered gullwing supercar is already, Mercedes-Benz is betting the reach of plug-in electric drive won’t only be restricted to small city cars. Rather, it’ll continue all the way into the top echelons of its line-up. All the way to the top, in fact.
Still, there’s a lot of ground to cover before a car like the SLS eDrive is considered ready for sale. Much of it involves thinking beyond the conventions of today’s cars. As AMG boss, Volker Mornhinweg explained to me, “The technology is fascinating but I’m not too sure whether we understand how to apply it correctly at the moment.”
He was talking about AMG’s efforts to mould electric drive into something that will please the enthusiast driver – the sort of customer AMG relies upon today. Mercedes-Benz’s answer is to equip the SLS eDrive with four separate electric motors – one for each wheel. It’s a layout that allows AMG to constantly vary the amount of drive going to each wheel.
“In this way we can alter the characteristics depending on the mood of the driver and the conditions,” says Mornhinweg. “By turning off the ESP system we can introduce more drive to the rear wheels for added oversteer. With it switched on we can provide a more neutral delivery of power front and rear for a more conservative character.”
It is revelations like this which leads me to believe the future of motoring is in safe hands. Rather than being a one dimensional experience as has widely been surmised, it is looking increasingly likely as though the age of the electric car could be every bit as exciting as it has up until now. If that’s not good news, what is?
By revealing the SLS eDrive well ahead of its planned introduction, Mercedes-Benz is attempting to prepare us for the eventual move away from petrol and diesels towards pure electric and hybrid drive.
If its good enough for the SLS then surely it has got to be good for the third generation A-class!