Tesla Motors will be farming out its electric vehicle (EV) technology in the coming years. The company is building Toyota RAV4 EVs, and will soon begin a similar project for Mercedes-Benz.
Mercedes wants to a bring an electric version of its B-Class compact to the United States in 2014. Automotive News reports that Tesla will supply the car’s electric motors and battery pack. Mercedes did not comment on the report.
Details on the B-Class EV’s performance are few, as there is still much development work to be done. The B-Class itself is a tall-roofed, five-door hatchback based on Mercedes’ new MFA platform. The MFA platform will support several front-wheel drive Benzes, including the CLA “four-door coupe” previewed by the Concept Style Coupe concept car.
Mercedes calls the current B-Class a “Compact Sports Tourer,” a smaller version of the R-Class “Grand Sports Tourer.” Powered by a selection of small four-cylinder engines, the car has been on sale overseas since 2005. Mercedes hasn’t seen fit to bring it to the U.S. until know, since fuel economy is trumping snobbery over driven wheels, size, and pretentious names like “Sports Tourer.”
When the B-Class EV hits the market, it will hold a unique place. Other luxury EVs, such as the Tesla Model S and upcoming Infiniti LE emphasize style, but the chunky Benz seems more utilitarian. The body style is almost a mix between a compact van (like the Nissan eNV200) and a regular, five-door hatchback (Nissan Leaf). The three-pointed star in the grille might also help sales against less prestigious brands.
This is not the first time Tesla has offered its services to another company. It is already building 2,600 RAV4 EVs for Toyota, with a 100-mile range and a price tag of $50,610. The project will give Tesla some cash while its Model S and Model X production lines spool up to full capacity.
A team-up with Mercedes makes even more sense, since Mercedes’ parent company, Daimler, owns 4.7 percent of Tesla. The electric carmaker has already built a Smart ForTwo EV for Daimler.