Mercedes A-Class E-cell

And firm’s premium supermini plugs in, too

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

We enjoyed our drive in this electric A-Class. Its performance, comfort and prestige feel are very impressive – as we would expect from Mercedes. If this is what the company’s upcoming fully electric small car will be like, the future is looking extremely good. Let’s just hope the eventual cost of showroom models can be made as realistic as possible. Bosses shouldn’t price the car out of buyers’ budgets.

From supercars to superminis, Mercedes is on the charge – and as well as the SLS E-CELL (left), we’ve driven the electric A-Class. The wraps came off the plug-in E-CELL model at October’s Paris Motor Show, and it’s central to the brand’s BlueEfficiency push for zero emissions around town.

Although it’s not officially coming to the UK in this form, chances are a battery-powered version of the all-new A-Class – due in 2013 – will follow. And after a 40-mile drive in a wide range of situations, our first impressions are good. 

Under the skin lie two lithium-ion battery packs supplied by Tesla. These power the single electric motor, which produces 94bhp and 290Nm of torque. The car is great on urban roads – 0-37mph is dispatched in 5.5 seconds – but a little

bit slower on the open road.

It takes 14 seconds to cover 0-62mph, and the top speed is restricted to 93mph.

The discreet on-board energy use display showed a battery charge of 82 per cent when we got behind the wheel, and 68 per cent once we had completed our 40-mile drive. That’s testament to Mercedes’ claim that the range can extend to 155 miles or even beyond, depending on the way you’re driving and the route you take.

The battery packs add 240kg to the kerbweight, but they sit low in the chassis, so the centre of gravity drops by two inches. As the body is raised by an inch, passenger and boot space are identical to a regular A-Class’s.

The suspension has been adapted to cope with the extra bulk, and the result is a very comfortable ride and composed handling. The only sound you really hear is when coasting downhill, or rolling towards a stop, or at full braking, when the motor and brake system’s energy regenerator function kicks in.

At present, Mercedes plans to produce 500 examples of this plug-in A-Class – and each uses the not-yet-final electric drivetrain that we’ll see firstin the Smart E-Drive in 2012. 

The Tesla batteries are effectively 4,000 laptop cells joined together, and they have a life expectancy of four years and 60,000 miles. So it’s no coincidence that the only way to get your hands on one of these cars is to sign a four-year, £750-per-month lease deal.

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