For those who think that going green requires significant sacrifices – starting with that concept known as “fun-to-drive,” a stop at the Mercedes-Benz booth at the Paris Motor Show is clearly in order.
While the German maker isn’t the first to argue that battery cars can deliver reasonably good performance, it’s set to provide the new benchmark with the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG E-Cell. In fact, you’ll already be close to extra-legal speed in the time it would take to read that last sentence.
This red-hot green machine, painted a high-gloss blue for its debut, can volt – make that bolt – from 0 to 100 kmh (62.5 mph) in just 3.9 seconds, on the way to a top speed of 250 kmh (155 mph). While that’s about 0.3 seconds slower than the conventional SLS Coupe the Mercedes battery supercar nonetheless now lays claims to being the world’s fastest production electric vehicle.
In part, that’s from the addition of a Formula One-style KERS electric turbocharging system. It recaptures energy normally lost during braking and coasting in a mechanical flywheel that can then pump that power back out to the wheels virtually instantaneously.
The Mercedes SLS AMG Electric Drive actually tops the gas-powered 2-seater in several categories. The conventional model “only” makes 583 horsepower. The four electric motors in the ED – one for each wheel – put out a jaw-dropping 740 hp and 737 lb-ft of torque.
The quad power arrangement has a number of advantages, notably the ability to shift power from one wheel to another, effectively creating a dynamic all-wheel-drive system. Each wheel can be braked separately, as well. Mercedes calls the technology AMG Torque Dynamics.
The extra horsepower is needed, nonetheless, to account for the hefty mass of batteries hidden under that long body, a 1,208-lb lithium-ion pack that can deliver range of an estimated 155 miles. Obviously, the more aggressive driving the shorter the range. There are twelve separate battery modules that are each liquid cooled, a necessity under high-demand driving.
The SLS Electric Drive can be recharged in as little as three hours using Mercedes’ high-voltage wall system. If you’re going to plug into a standard wall outlet, however, expect to wait almost a full day – 22 hours to be precise – before heading back out onto the street.
There are some minor visual modifications, such as a grille that looks more like that on the recent Mercedes A-Class concept than the current SLS. Originally dubbed the E-Cell Concept, the production car is more radically redesigned under the skin in the transition from V-8 to battery power. A special carbon fiber monocoque stretches lengthwise, almost like a spine within the aluminum spaceframe. It not only protects the battery but keeps it low-mounted – to improve the SLS Electric Drive’s center of gravity – and well out of harm’s way from all but the most violent collisions.
Battery car proponents like to take about the savings on fuel costs. Considering the amount of gas that the conventional SLS Coupe can suck down when your foot is pasted to the floor, the savings can add up quickly. But you’ll still need a big bank account to put the new Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Electric Drive in your garage. The maker is quoting a German price tag of 416,500 Euros. If that holds when the ED comes to the States, that would work out to about $536,000.