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Merc joins the battery push

A new interactive sculpture in Cape Town symbolises rapid advances in car technology, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

“The Mercedes-Benz EQ brand and technology encapsulates all the electric know-how of Mercedes-Benz Cars,” he says “By 2022, Mercedes-Benz will offer more than ten purely electrically driven vehicles in every production series.”

The EQA will be part of this roll-out, but won’t be the first electric Merc in South Africa. That honour will go to the EQC, a sedan with an expected range of more than 450 km on one charge. Launched a few weeks ago, it will be produced at a plant in Bremen next year, and is expected to be delivered to South African customers in 2020.

By then, he believes, charging stations will be commonplace.

“They are popping up around the country. There are four below the Zoetrope, in the parking garage. Every new mall that’s coming up, they’re building with charging stations in mind. This roll-out is happening, whether or not government or manufacturers support it. Society is supporting it.”

Meanwhile, the company has invested R100-million on a South African plant building hybrid petrol-electric cars. This makes it the only manufacturer on the African continent to build hybrid vehicles for export to the rest of the world.

“Plug-in hybrids represent a key technology on the road to a locally emission-free future for the motor vehicle,” says Govender. “This is because they offer customers the best of both worlds; in the city they can drive in fully electric mode, while on long journeys they benefit from the combustion engine’s range.

“Because the strengths of plug-in hybrids come to the fore in larger vehicles and on mixed route profiles, Mercedes-Benz is opting for this powertrain concept from the C-Class upwards. Designed to be scalable, it can be transferred to a large number of model series and body styles as well as left and right-hand-drive variants.”

Parent company Daimler AG is investing approximately one billion Euros in battery production. It is developing a new flash charge technology that allows an EV battery to be charged from 10% to 80% in 40 minutes. This, says Fritz, will be the “game-changer” for electric cars.

However, he is under no illusion that the public will embrace the EV.

“It’s not going to be a switch we turn from non-electric to electric. We have to slowly build up demand, and our approach is to make EQ as a brand attractive and sexy and get people to think in a new way about mobility. We’re preparing the ground for more to come, but there is still a long way to go.”

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee and on YouTube

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