Green Race Continues: BMW, VW, Daimler Intensify Efforts On EV And Hybrid Models
|   Saturday, November 03, 2012
The ever-going struggle for supremacy in various segments of the auto market is very fierce indeed, especially among the big car makers. Over the past 10 years, German car makers like Mercedes, BMW or Volkswagen have upped their diesel and gasoline engines significantly; Toyota races ahead in the hybrid tech department, and the latest collaboration between General Motors and Renault-Nissan is no 1 in making EVs.

For this reason, Autonews tells us that the German manufacturers want to make up for the lost time, and the top three car makers expect to bring electric-powered vehicles into showrooms before 2013 is up.


Therefore, at the Paris Auto Show this week, Mercedes-Benz will unveil the SLS AMG E-CELL. The exhaust-free gull-wing supercar will be ready next year. It has four electric motors propelling it to 100 kilometers (62 miles) per hour in just 4 seconds, a little over the 3.8 seconds needed by the 571 horsepower combustion version.

The French from Renault and its partners from Nissan, (the ones making the segment-leading Leaf EV), are not ready to give up the advantage they hold right now, not after investing a total of 4 billion euros (5.2 billion dollars) in electric cars. At Paris, Renault will bring a compact called Zoe, its fourth electric model following the Fluence sedan, Kangoo delivery van and the Twizy, a four-wheel scooter with a roof. There is a downside to all this however. By informing customers on the concept, the French-Japanese alliance had to do tons of work from which others will benefit from.

Now, besides the SLS, Daimler will also present an electric-powered version of the Mercedes B-class compact in Paris, or which plans have been made to start deliveries in 2014. The maker of Smart will also display a performance version of the electric Fortwo as well as a larger battery-powered concept as the brand seeks to underscore its image as an urban pioneer. The boys at Daimler have plans to sell at least 10,000 electric Smarts a year, or about 10 percent of the two-seater's sales.

Arriving at 18,910 euro (24,400 dollars) for the car plus an extra 65 euro per month to rent the battery, the small two-seater overtakes most rivals, here we have the Renault Zoe, which will cost 20,600 euro without a battery. However, Renault is backed up by the fact that the French government (which, by the way, owns 15 percent of the company) is really supporting electric-car sales by offering an incentive worth 7,000 euro towards the buying of battery-powered vehicles.

Due to a lack of similar programs, the Germans auto makers are somewhat at a disadvantage; they have to put extra effort in to get a slice of "the pie". But with their financing and distribution possibilities, the Germans will no doubt help improve public interest in this segment.

Speaking of which, the market for electric-passenger cars is expected to triple to 384,000 units in 2014, up from the meager 102,000 units this year, all thanks to the new models from the Germany and other manufacturers.
Also in the forecast, Renault-Nissan's leading share of the segment will likely go down to 40 percent from the current 48 percent. Renault and Nissan had ambitious plans and wanted to deliver a total of 1.5 million electric vehicles through 2016. Up to date, they only reached 77,000 units.
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