With their impending releases later this year – and what we really hope is an honest-to-goodness demand for electric cars – the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt have been front-and-center news in recent months. In fact, just last week we were telling you about the Nissan entry selling out during its initial run based on pre-orders for a December roll out. Perhaps, finally, there’s something in the air that has brought us to that elusive tipping point where the auto industry’s best techsters are zeroing in on delivering zero-emission vehicles. Indeed, players continue to jump into this e-mix, and for those of you who dig Deutsche engineering, it can now be said: The Germans are coming. And they’re throwing down hard.
Last week, the BMW Group finally came clean(er) on its Megacity Vehicle, an electric four-seater expected to go on the market in 2013. Designed for urban comings and goings, the MCV will have an electric motor generating 100 kW, as well as a small combustion engine that’s basically a range extender. What’s radical here is that the MCV will be “the world’s first volume-produced vehicle with a passenger cell made from carbon.”
The design is based on something BMW calls its LifeDrive concept, which consists of two separated, independent modules that allow for a new lightweight design that will offset the extra 250+ kilograms (that’s more than 550 lbs.!) of weight usually carried by electric vehicles.
Meanwhile, as BMW thinks city, Mercedes-Benz is thinking highway – or rather raceway. Its 2013 SLS E-CELL prototype gets to 62 mph in a breathless four seconds and has a top speed of 155. Truly a zero-emission “super car,” the gullwing has an output of 392 kW and, says Autoblog, features four electric motors that “top out at a screaming 12,000 rpm” and “combine to apply 526 horsepower and 649 pound-feet of torque to the wheels.” Even the name of the paint is hot. Get this: fluorescent lumilectric magno. While Audi’s powerful planned E-tron car may beat Mercedes to the market, according to The New York Times, the Tesla Roadster currently remains the only high-performance electric car on the market.
Both automakers are talking the talk, which is important as neither is known for past good emission deeds and since consumers seem increasingly interested in rewarding companies who are playing nice with the environment. “We take social responsibility very seriously, says Ola KÃ¤llenius, chairman of the board of Mercedes-AMG GmbH. “It is our goal to continually reduce the fuel consumption and emissions of new models in the coming years, while at the same time enhancing the core brand value of performance.” A BMW rep chimes into the NYT with, “The departure from fossil fuels is an irreversible trend.” One can only hope.