Who has the best electric strategy? BMW or Mercedes? Here are our arguments pro&contra and why we consider that Mercedes electric strategy is better.
The two traditional rivals found a new fighting territory and a long battle will follow in the next years.
Elos Musk genius has opened the new electric era. Tesla models has demonstrated, despite all the production problems for a newcomer in the industry, that premium, luxury and electric propulsion has a strong future.
Many analysts has considered in 2013 that BMW has the perfect approach for the new generation of electric cars. A dedicated platform, a new structure (Life cell from CFRP and drive train in aluminium which support the engine and the battery), the low weight and the new eco materials made a revolution in the car industry.
The general opinion was the new BMW i3, launched in 2013, is a car ahead of its time, a car for the future. 31,482 i3 were sold in 2017, more than BMW expected. The initial plans were to sell around 20,000 cars per year.
Everything looks perfect but is not. The Life/Drive platform is very expensive and has some limitations regarding dimensions. It cannot be used for very large cars and the structure itself generate a relatively high height compared with a conventional car.
The CFRP material is not suitable for the SUVs because the structure is not stable in off-road, according to a Lamborghini study.
On the other hand, the new technologies for the batteries has increased their capacity in the same volume and the same weight. For this reason, the low weight of the i3 obtained using the expensive materials like the CFRP and magnesium has not anymore an important role.
With the new batteries, even a car with a conventional body can reach a range of 300 km which is more than enough.
Taking into balance all these things, BMW has taken a surprising decision: all the future electric models will be developed on the classical bodies and platforms. So, not on a dedicated electric platform and probably, even not with a specific design as we see in the first spy pictures with BMW X3 electric, the first BMW electric model built on a conventional platform.
Why is not the best solution?
A conventional body has totally different proportions with a long hood to accommodate the classic thermic engine which is not needed in case of an electric car. An electric car should have other proportions with a more compact front.
On the other hand, the aerodynamic of an electric car should be better and the distribution of the weight is totally different.
But BMW has considered that using the same platform for both type of propulsion is a better solution for a more efficient production. You can use the same production lines and you can deal more easy with the volumes because nobody can estimate the demand for the electric cars.
Mercedes was not so fast like BMW and not so innovative.
Initially, Mercedes has promoting the same arguments like BMW today. In 2015, when B-Class Electric Drive was launched, Mercedes conclude that B-Class Electric Drive is produced on the same production lines like the conventional B-Class, at Rastatt plant, and it has full four doors (allusion to the two doors and the half of the i3) and full five seats.
But since then, Mercedes has changed totally its policy and we think this is the right way.
In autumn 2016, Mercedes has presented at Paris motorshow the new EQ platform (EVA platform) under the future middle-size class SUV.
The EQ platform is so flexible and allows to be build on it all the future electric cars from Mercedes, from the A-Class to the S-Class and the GLS, doesn’t matter we speak about a front wheel drive, rear wheel drive or four wheel drive.
8 EQ models will be built on the EVA platform until 2023.
Only one thing is the same: the batteries are located in a housing under the floor between the axles. And the batteries has a modular construction. In the same volume can be accommodated batteries with a capacity of 60, 80, 95 and 110 kWh. Also the power of electric engines is modular depending of the model and version.
Mercedes also used the advantage of a dedicated separate platform for the electric models.
The future EQC (the electric version of the GLC) will be smaller than the GLC because Mercedes optimize the body proportions special for the electric propulsion and the front part will be more compact.
In the same way, the future EQ GLE will be smaller than the next GLE, the S-Class electric will be smaller than the conventional S-Class and some weight can be saved because of more compact dimensions.
For this reason, the Mercedes strategy to have a modular flexible dedicated platform for all its electric models seems to be a better solution than in case of BMW.
And we have to not forget the emotional aspect. The EQC will have a different design compared with GLC which will not be the case of BMW X3 electric. And all the Mercedes EQ models will have a different design compared with the conventional models.