Drive a Mercedes EV? You Have These Cars to Thank
Not long ago, the mass market electric car was thought of as some fanciful pipe dream. Today we know that’s clearly not the case, as some of you may own one. For those that do, specifically a Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive, may we present to you its forbears. While this electrified Mercedes 190e and early ’90s C-Class are far from the first electric vehicles that Mercedes produced—those honors go to the 1906 Mercedes-Electrique—this pairing does explain an interesting part of Mercedes’ electric vehicle history, and a turning point in EV technology. First, the “190e Elektro.” RELATED: Remember When Mercedes Built a 740-HP Electric SLS AMG?
Truth be told, Mercedes has a long history of dabbling in electric drive. Throughout the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s Mercedes developed electric buses, vans, and other transport vehicles. Things got a bit more involved in the ‘80s though, and in 1982 Mercedes began testing electric drive versions of its W123 station wagons. The next step? A compact electric car, based on the new 190e.
At the Geneva Motor Show in 1991, Mercedes unveiled its “Elektro” 190e, which boasted two 26 horsepower electric motors, banks of sodium-nickel chloride batteries, and about 68 miles of driving range. Not shabby at all in hindsight. In 1992, Mercedes joined BMW and other automakers in a four-year electric vehicle experiment on the island of Rügen, which saw Mercedes test the performance of 20 vehicles with varying setups.
Seven 190e models are said to have sported an asynchronous engine layout, in which no transmission was needed, while three cars featured a variant setup with nickel-cadmium batteries, a manual transmission, and a 25 mile driving range. The red “Elektro” 190e pictured above went on to clock a staggering 100,000 kilometers of test driving in one year.
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As the new Mercedes C-Class replaced the venerable 190 in the early ‘90s, Mercedes turned its newest compact car into an EV, which it showcased at the 1993 Frankfurt Motor Show (pictured above in green). The new car wielded 48 horsepower and a familiar 68 miles of range, but it did so with a new series of “ZEBRA” batteries, which kept the sedan’s interior stock in appearance and free of intrusive battery packs. It also shared the stage with a techy pair of battery-hybrid C-Class vehicles.
Of course, there are quite a few more steps between these vintage prototypes and the B-Class EV currently sold today, but the DNA and the history is there.
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