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Saturday, May 1, 2010

Mercedes-Benz AMG SLS eDrive due for production in 2013

AMG will display a closer-to-production version electric SLS eDrive supercar later this year as it works towards a full production version in 2013.

The Mercedes-Benz performance arm rolled out the first eDrive concept at the last September’s Frankfurt motor show, and many sceptics viewed it as a one-off green publicity push, but departing AMG managing director Volker Mornhinweg has said the car is much more than that.

He said the company was deep into the development process for the car and on track for a 2013 debut.

The SLS eDrive has one 100kW motor per wheel fed by a lithium-ion battery pack housed in the same body shell as petrol SLS models.

Having driven the prototypes, Mr Mornhinweg is confident the production model will deliver the same kind of emotion as the petrol version of the supercar.

“I can tell you that it is an amazing kind of experience,” he said. “Therefore we are on the way to transport the same emotion as you can have with the combustion engine.”

One issue with an electric vehicle is the relative silence of the powerplant, a crucial element of supercar such as the SLS.

AMG is against mimicking a combustion engine note and would prefer for it to sound electric, with the whirring of motors that goes with it.

“I can tell you there is a sound; it is not the same as a V8,” Mr Mornhinweg said.

“It is totally different. There is some wind noise, but when you push the throttle there is a sound that I would describe as interesting – it sounds new and futuristic.”

Mr Mornhinweg said the SLS was a good vehicle to turn into an electric car.

“This concept is perfect for e-drive because we can take (out) a combustion engine and transaxle (gearbox) and make no changes to the body in white, and we can put in two motors with the gearbox in the rear, two motors and the gearbox in the front and we can take the centre console as a battery place – it looks like a T and it is perfect,” he said.

The estimated range is about 180km.

Mr Mornhinweg said it was important to build an all-electric supercar first and could consider other technology for extending the range.

“To go one step back is easier,” he said.

“First of all we will make the big move and learn all about the technology in the future we have to implement.”

The make-up of electric vehicles will depend on battery technology advancements, Mornhinweg said.

“In the long run it depends on what will be the next move in the battery technology and the whole world is working on that like hell,” he said.

“On the other hand we could go one step back with a range extender or with a fuel cell. Our company is number one with fuel cells.”

AMG is looking at other ways of reducing the fuel consumption of its cars, including a possible boosted four-cylinder small car.

It will also move away from its 6.2-litre naturally aspirated V8, which it calls a 6.3 for nostalgic reasons, opting instead for a more efficient twin turbocharged 5.5-litre V8 with direct injection that manages 420kW and 900Nm.

AMG says this engine will use about 25 per cent less fuel than the existing one.

This engine will be introduced in the large S-class sedan before being spread across the AMG range.

He agreed: “Without an e-motor (as a hybrid) I think so, except for very small ones such as range extenders.”

“The combustion engine we will see for the next decade, but it will be charged.”

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