With the new models, Mercedes appears in Tesla’s rearview mirror

With the new models, Mercedes appears in Tesla’s rearview mirror

American automakers still lead the electric car market by a handful, but traditional automakers are closing the gap.

As the world tries to understand the reasons behind Elon Musk’s offer to buy Twitter, an electric car ride made history last week – and it wasn’t from Tesla.

Without any recharging stations, the Mercedes-Benz model left Sindelfingen, in southwestern Germany, crossed Switzerland and part of Italy, and arrived at Cassis, on the French Mediterranean coast.

The distance covered was more than 1,000 km, almost twice that of the Tesla Model S. And the EQXX Compass arrived at its destination with enough battery to run another 140 km.

America’s pioneers still lead the electric car market by hand – which they built themselves – but traditional manufacturers are closing the gap.

Mercedes will invest 65 billion US dollars over the next four years in a major transformation of the company whose history is intertwined with that of the automotive industry.

The design of the EQXX prototype, some of which was developed in collaboration with Lewis Hamilton’s Formula 1 team, will still take a few years to become known.

But the latest editions of the German company of the century show that the profit that Tesla opened at the beginning does not guarantee Musk the top step of the podium.

‘Tesla killer’?

The name Mercedes is associated with very luxurious sedans, which are part of the S-Class (from Sonderklasse, or a special class). The electric version of this top-of-the-range car, the EQS, was launched in the second half of last year.

Yesterday, the company announced the SUV version of its top line. The big expectations, however, are related to the model that comes a little lower and went on sale last month in Europe.

With a base price of €70,000 for the most basic version, the EQE is the first car to be given the ‘Tesla killer’ moniker.

The EQE will compete directly with the Model S, one of Tesla’s most popular models. It will also be the German automaker’s first electric car priced under $100,000.

‘Tesla killer’ is obviously an exaggeration, but after years of reluctance Mercedes is no longer in doubt that electrification is a matter of life and death.

The German automaker’s expectation is for battery-powered models to account for the majority of sales by the end of the decade, although there is no firm deadline for a full transition.

Even with the world’s most valuable brand in the luxury car segment, Mercedes knows that, at least in this initial phase of electrification, the conflict must take place in the field of technology.

EQE offers clues to the German vision of the future of cars.

First comes battery life. The two versions of the EQE will have a range of 560 km, almost 150 km more than the direct competitor Model S. In fast charging stations, it is possible to reach 80% of the battery in 30 minutes.

Part of the advantage of the range is related to the design: Mercedes claims that the EQE body is one of the most aerodynamic on the road.

Another innovation is a modern system that allows charging the battery when the car slows down. Used in many electric vehicles, Mercedes’ regenerative braking allows for greater use of kinetic energy.

In addition to sensors and cameras that allow a certain degree of freedom for the car on the road (but without providing software control), EQE brings a series of future options.

The most amazing thing is the screen called Hyperscreen, which has a height of 1.4 meters and occupies the entire front panel. A passenger can watch a movie from his seat – but if the driver is looking at the screen, the sensor will detect the inattention and the image will automatically turn off.

change in

Focusing on electricity will mean significant changes from the factory door to the interior.

One of the characteristics that distinguish Tesla from the rest of the industry is vertical: the company assembles its own engines and batteries (and third-party components) and has even built a network of more than 30,000 charging stations.

In addition, the company was born electric and, therefore, knew the complex electronic system required by the new generation of cars.

At Mercedes, the takeover of services that used to belong to dealers is just beginning. The company acquired the UK’s Yasa, which makes electric motors, and is a partner in the Automotive Cell Company, a joint venture with Stellantis (owner of Fiat and Peugeot) to make batteries.

The goal is to have seven factories that produce electric vehicles, and another eight that are used for batteries.

Investment in combustion engines will be reduced by 80% in the coming years. The coming days will mark a “reallocation of capital” for the Stuttgart-based automaker, the company’s CEO Ola Kallenius said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.

The path to electrification, however, still has many obstacles – for the entire industry.

RJ Scaringe, CEO of Manufacturer of Rivian electric SUVssaid he saw in the horizon a crisis in the supply of raw materials necessary for batteries.

“To be very honest, the total production of (battery) cells in the world represents less than 10% of what we need in 10 years,” he said in a recent interview. “In other words, 90% to 95% of the supply is missing.”

Even Tesla, which has scale advantages and has come out ahead of the competition, can suffer from deficiency of minerals such as lithium, cobalt and nickel.

“Lithium prices are at insane levels! Tesla may have to get into mining and refining directly and at scale unless costs improve,” Musk wrote on Twitter in early April.

Obviously, the post set off a flurry of speculation about Musk’s intentions. Although few thought the vertical could go that far, Tesla soon hired a geologist.

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