With the arrival of the Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive the BMW i3 electric car now has a competitor in the luxury compact segment, but which one is better?
The BMW i3 is the first electric model from BMW's new i-sub brand that will also include the i8 plug-in hybrid sports car. The i3 is the perfect electric car for an urban environment with its compact hatchback body and room for four passengers. The gets its motivation from a 174-hp electric motor with 184 lb-ft. of torque. It has a range up to 100 miles, but the available rear-mounted 34-hp, two-cylinder, gasoline-powered Range Extender generator is available, which roughly doubles the i3's range. The i3 will reach 0-60 mph in around seven seconds and has a top speed of 93 mph.
BMW estimates that recharging the i3 will take up to 3 hours with the use of a 220V Level 2 charger, but the SAE DC Combo Fast Charging system charges the BMW i3 up to 80% in 20 minutes and 100% in 30 minutes. The i3 starts at $41,350 before any federal or state tax credits are applied. The response to the BMW i3 has been so overwhelming that BMW has recently increased it's production estimates. Will the Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive duplicate the same sales success?
The Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive arrives this summer and unlike the i3, which is based on a completely new platform, the B-Class Electric Drive is based on the standard B-Class that is not sold in the U.S. The B-Class Electric Drive is also a four-door hatchback like the i3, although its rear doors are larger, which will make it easier for passengers to get in and out. The B-Class Electric Drive also has room for five passengers.
The B-Class Electric Drive was developed in cooperation with Tesla, which means that it is powered by a Tesla electric drive system. The electric motor generates 177 horsepower and 251 lb-ft of torque. The B-Class Electric Drive will reach 0-60 mph in 7.9 seconds, almost a second slower than the i3 and has a limited top speed of 100 mph. It has a range of 85 miles, but unlike the i3, which offers a range extending gas engine, once you run out of battery power in the B-Class Electric Drive, you're stuck, since the Mercedes doesn't offer a gas-powered backup. Mercedes-Benz estimates that for a driving range of about 60 miles, it will take around 2 hours using a 240V charger.
The pricing for the i3 and B-Class Electric Drive are nearly identical, with the i3 starting at $41,350 and the B-Class only costing $100 more. Only time will tell if Mercedes-Benz will be as successful with the B-Class Electric Drive as BMW has been with the i3. There is just one big difference that may make the i3 the better choice. Until the charging infrastructure is better, i'd much rather have the range extender in the i3 just in case.