Car News

Mercedes A-Class E-Cell First Drive

RELATED INVENTORY
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
Used 2011 Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class 4MATIC
Used 2011 Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class
$11,200
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
Used 2011 Mercedes-Benz S-Class 4MATIC
Used 2011 Mercedes-Benz S-Class
$24,500
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
Used 2011 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Sedan
Used 2011 Mercedes-Benz C-Class
$10,993
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
Used 2011 Mercedes-Benz G-Class 4MATIC
Used 2011 Mercedes-Benz G-Class
$61,987
RELATED READING
See all Mercedes-Benz any articles
RESEARCH BY MAKE
Toyota cars, trucks and SUVs Ford cars, trucks and SUVs Honda cars, trucks and SUVs Chevrolet cars, trucks and SUVs Jeep cars, trucks and SUVs Nissan cars, trucks and SUVs Lexus cars, trucks and SUVs Volkswagen cars, trucks and SUVs BMW cars, trucks and SUVs
Acura cars, trucks and SUVs Alfa Romeo cars, trucks and SUVs AMC cars, trucks and SUVs Aston Martin cars, trucks and SUVs Audi cars, trucks and SUVs Bentley cars, trucks and SUVs BMW cars, trucks and SUVs Bugatti cars, trucks and SUVs Buick cars, trucks and SUVs Cadillac cars, trucks and SUVs Chevrolet cars, trucks and SUVs Chrysler cars, trucks and SUVs Daewoo cars, trucks and SUVs Datsun cars, trucks and SUVs DeLorean cars, trucks and SUVs Dodge cars, trucks and SUVs Eagle cars, trucks and SUVs Ferrari cars, trucks and SUVs FIAT cars, trucks and SUVs Fisker cars, trucks and SUVs Ford cars, trucks and SUVs Freightliner cars, trucks and SUVs Genesis cars, trucks and SUVs Geo cars, trucks and SUVs GMC cars, trucks and SUVs Honda cars, trucks and SUVs HUMMER cars, trucks and SUVs Hyundai cars, trucks and SUVs INFINITI cars, trucks and SUVs Isuzu cars, trucks and SUVs Jaguar cars, trucks and SUVs Jeep cars, trucks and SUVs Kia cars, trucks and SUVs Lamborghini cars, trucks and SUVs Land Rover cars, trucks and SUVs Lexus cars, trucks and SUVs Lincoln cars, trucks and SUVs Lotus cars, trucks and SUVs Maserati cars, trucks and SUVs Maybach cars, trucks and SUVs Mazda cars, trucks and SUVs McLaren cars, trucks and SUVs Mercedes-Benz cars, trucks and SUVs Mercury cars, trucks and SUVs MINI cars, trucks and SUVs Mitsubishi cars, trucks and SUVs Nissan cars, trucks and SUVs Oldsmobile cars, trucks and SUVs Plymouth cars, trucks and SUVs Pontiac cars, trucks and SUVs Porsche cars, trucks and SUVs RAM cars, trucks and SUVs Rolls-Royce cars, trucks and SUVs Saab cars, trucks and SUVs Saturn cars, trucks and SUVs Scion cars, trucks and SUVs smart cars, trucks and SUVs SRT cars, trucks and SUVs Subaru cars, trucks and SUVs Suzuki cars, trucks and SUVs Tesla cars, trucks and SUVs Toyota cars, trucks and SUVs Volkswagen cars, trucks and SUVs Volvo cars, trucks and SUVs Yugo cars, trucks and SUVs
RESEARCH BY STYLE
AWD/4WD
Commercial
Convertible
Coupe
Hatchback
Hybrid/Electric
Luxury
Sedan
SUV/Crossover
Truck
Van/Minivan
Wagon
ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader May 2011

Mercedes may call the 500 all-electric A‑Class E-Cells it is building for a European lease-only test program "prototypes," but after a short drive in one during the 11th Michelin Challenge Bibendum in Berlin last week, it's clear the vehicle is ready for production.

To most Americans, the idea of a compact Mercedes is as foreign as mixing beer and Coca-Cola – a trendy combination in Germany – but in Europe the Mercedes A-Class is a perennially popular small car.

When the current A-Class was originally developed, Mercedes fully intended to build an electric variant alongside a gas-powered one, and specifically left a large flat cavity under the seats to accommodate a battery pack. But it dropped the idea of an all-electric version back in the mid 2000s when electric cars seemed to be falling out of favor. It focused instead on a test program for a hydrogen fuel cell-powered prototype – leaving the battery cavity empty.

Fast forward to early 2010, and it was clear to Mercedes that the attitude towards electric cars was changing. It solicited the help of American electric car startup Tesla to develop a battery pack that could fit in the already-existing cavity, and, voila, the A-Class E-Cell test program was quickly revived from the dead.

In many respects, the A-Class E-Cell is the functional equivalent of the Nissan Leaf: it is also a five seat compact hatchback. But beyond the basic footprint the comparison gives way, with the A-Class falling flat in some key areas. Certainly comparing a prototype to a production vehicle is a little unfair, but given the similarities the pairing is inevitable – and with several hundred out in the wild, the A-Class E-Cell is much more than a prototype at this point.

With a 36 kilowatt-hour battery pack, the A-Class E-Cell has 33 percent more battery capacity than the Leaf, but at about 100 miles on a full charge, its range is only marginally better (the Leaf returns between 80 and 90 miles on average). The relatively short range is made even more curious due to the fact that the A-Class E-Cell's 67 horsepower electric motor is almost half as powerful as the Leaf's 120 horsepower motor. In general, you would expect a car with a more powerful electric motor to consume more energy.

The underpowered motor made the A-Class E-Cell feel a bit sluggish when accelerating from a standstill, but the car felt solid in corners and during braking, exhibiting minimal roll and dive. In fact, the driving characteristics of the all-electric A-Class feel almost exactly like the gasoline-powered version.

At this point, Mercedes views the A-Class E-Cell as a test bed for future electric vehicles – pointing to the electric Smart ED as the company's first true foray into the rapidly expanding world of electric cars. But at the Michelin Challenge Bibendum in Berlin, Mercedes spokesman Helfried Scharf said that Mercedes was on track to sell the A-Class E-Cell outside of its current lease test program by 2014 or 2015. The company declined to comment on whether or not the vehicle will eventually reach the United States.

RELATED INVENTORY
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
Used 2011 Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class 4MATIC
Used 2011 Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class
$11,200
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
Used 2011 Mercedes-Benz S-Class 4MATIC
Used 2011 Mercedes-Benz S-Class
$24,500
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
Used 2011 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Sedan
Used 2011 Mercedes-Benz C-Class
$10,993
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
Used 2011 Mercedes-Benz G-Class 4MATIC
Used 2011 Mercedes-Benz G-Class
$61,987
This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Mercedes A-Class E-Cell First Drive - Autotrader