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Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive: An EV from the people who brought you the first car

Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric DriveMercedes-Benz is getting into green cars in a big way, and the compact B-Class seems to be its platform of choice. Mercedes already announced that it would bring a natural gas-powered B-Class to the Paris Motor Show, and now it has confirmed that it will show the B-Class Electric Drive was well.

Mercedes has been experimenting with electric cars for some time (including selling a golf cart-like Smart Electric Drive), but the B-Class Electric Drive will be the first production-ready EV to wear the three-pointed star. Early reports said the car would have an electric motor and battery pack from Tesla Motors, but Mercedes has not confirmed this (Mercedes parent Daimler owns a percentage of Tesla).

The B-Class Electric Drive will be motivated by a 100kW electric motor with 229 lb-ft of torque and a lithium ion battery pack. Its range is reportedly 124 miles, putting it comfortably ahead of mainstream EVs like the Nissan Leaf (73 miles), but behind the Tesla Model S, even the entry level version (160 miles).

At least two charging options will be available: 230v and 400v. We’ll have to wait for the B-Class Electric Drive’s Paris debut for charging times and performance numbers.

Like the B200 Natural Gas Drive, the B-Class Electric Drive takes full advantage of Mercedes’ new Energy Space modular platform. This design can be reconfigured to package different types of powertrains in the same car. In the case of the electric B-Class, the battery pack is set in the floor in front of the rear axle, preserving interior space.

The redesigned B-Class will be coming to the United States, and the B-Class Electric Drive will make the trip over with the rest of the lineup. When it does arrive, probably during calendar year 2014, it will split the difference between mainstream EVs and the luxurious models from Tesla. As an entry-level Mercedes, the B-Class Electric Drive will offer a more upscale feel than a Leaf or Ford Focus Electric, but won’t reach Tesla’s level of performance or price.

After a somewhat false start with the Smart Electric Drive, Mercedes is planning to offer several EVs under the Electric Drive sub-brand. Joining the B-Class at the Paris Motor Show will be a production version of the SLS AMG Coupe Electric Drive (first shown as a concept a few years ago), and the Smart Brabus Electric Drive, a tuned version of the electric Smart.

Mercedes-Benz can trace its lineage back to the first practical internal combustion vehicle, but if electric cars really are the future, the maker’s of the world’s first car seem ready to change with the times.

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