The Germans are Coming!

Considering Germany is home to automotive titans like Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW, it’s disappointing America hasn’t had many plug-in offerings coming from there. It was only last year when the first plug-ins from Germany arrived here when smart began selling the smart electric drive in mid 2013, followed by the Porsche Panamera PHEV last November.

However that was just a start. In 2014, America will get a few more plug-ins from Deutschland, vastly increasing the array of electric vehicles available to the US public. Lets take a look at a couple of the more mainstream EV’s the US will get from German manufacturers in the coming months:

The BMW i3:

BMW i3

The first i3’s will land on US shores in April for early May deliveries. It will launch simultaneously in all 50 states. The i3 is a four passenger, 5 door hatchback with a 22kWh battery pack. The i3 isn t EPA rated yet, but BMW claims an 80 to 100 mile electric range. BMW claims a 0-60 time of about 7 seconds with an electronically governed top speed of 93 mph. The i3’s base price is $41,350. For an additional $3,850 the i3 can be fitted with a 650cc gasoline motorcycle engine that serves as a range extender which allows the driver to continue driving once the electric range is depleted. The range extender turns on automatically when the state of charge reaches 6% and allows the driver to continue to their destination or to the nearest charge point without issue. The i3 also has a DC fast charge option and uses the SAE Combo connector.

The Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive:

Mercedes B-Class

Mercedes says the B-Class electric drive will be available in the US in the summer of 2014. Initially, the B-Class Electric Drive will only be available in ten US States, but by the end of 2014, it will be available nationwide. The B-Class is powered by a drivetrain developed jointly by Daimler and Tesla and uses Tesla components and batteries. It will have a 28kWh battery pack and is expected to have an EPA range rating of approximately 90 miles per charge. The B-Class seats five and has a lot of cargo capacity in the rear hatch area. Pricing is expected to begin at about $45,000 and Mercedes will offer a wide range of options on the B-Class Electric Drive, just as they do with the all their other models. Mercedes claims a 0-60 time of 7.9 seconds which means it should offer a spirited driving experience. DC fast charge is not offered on the B-Class Electric Drive.

The Volkswagen e-Golf:

VW e-Golf

The Volkswagen e-Golf will appear in the US late in 2104 as a 2015 model. Volkswagen’s website say’s “The e-Golf vehicle will be available only at participating Volkswagen dealers in select states.” It isn’t clear if that is just for the initial launch, of if Volkswagen will only offer the e-golf in participating CARB states. The 24.2kWh battery pack sits under the rear seats and between the rear wheels with small sections also under the two front seats. With only a 114 horsepower motor it will be considerably slower from 0-60 than its rivals from BMW and Daimler, taking about 10.4 seconds to accomplish the feat. The 5 passenger, 5 door hatchback is basically the same car as the gasoline and Diesel Golf’s which are one of the worlds best selling automobiles year in and year out, only it’s better with an electric drivetrain! Official EPA range certification has not been done yet but expect the e-golf to have roughly the same range as its electric competitors from BMW and Daimler. US pricing has not yet been announced but is expected to begin at around $40,000. The e-golf also has a DC fast charge option and uses the SAE Combo connector.

The Audi A3 e-tron PHEV:

Audi A3 e-Tron

The Audi A3 e-tron will launch in late 2014 or possibly early 2015 and is a plug in hybrid. Audi hasn’t commented on availability so it isn’t clear if the A3 e-tron will be available in all 50 states. It is a five door, five passenger hatchback which has an 8.8kWh battery coupled with a turbocharged, 1.4-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine. Audi claims a 0-60 time of 7.6 seconds and an all electric range of 31 miles. However the 31 mile range claim was based on the European NEDC range rating system which is much less strenuous than the EPA 5-cycle test used in the US. With an 8.8kWh battery pack, the A3 e-tron will likely be rated at around 20 to 24 miles of all electric range once the EPA testing is done. Audi claims a combined fuel consumption of 156mpg and a total driving range of 585 miles. DC fast charge will not be available. The Audi A3 e-tron is expected to be priced at about $50,000.

These new entries in the US plug-in market help to solidify the claim that plug in cars are indeed going mainstream. By 2015 nearly every major OEM will have a plug in offering available in the US, even if some are limited to only selling in CARB states. The more plug-in choices available the better, however the one disappointing point to make is that nobody is even beginning to challenge Tesla with regards to all electric range. Every other automaker seems content with 80 to 100 miles of range even while much of the public consistently asks for more. Who will be the first one to bridge the gap between Tesla and everybody else and offer an all electric car with 140 to 160 miles of range? Sooner or later somebody has to realize there is a market there. Who’s it going to be?

Posted Tom Moloughney

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