Will the US Get The Volkswagen Up! or Mercedes B-Class?

Are people willing to pay more – comparatively speaking – for less car? Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen think so, especially if that car happens to be electric.

The vehicles in question are Mercedes-Benz’s B Class Electric Drive and the Volkswagen Up!  The big deal about these little cars is that they increase just a bit more the variety of electric vehicle choice. By making them available, the manufacturers help validate and advance the liberating technology of electric vehicles (EVs)

So just how do these bantamweight EVs stack up? We’re not 100-percent sure yet, since there is still some question as to whether any version of the Volkswagen Up! would ever be available in the United States. What we do know is that both cars look pretty sharp inside and out, and their pricing, though still fuzzy, should put them in closer reach of would-be electric owners.

Here’s the nitty gritty so far on these itty bitty cars.

Mercedes-Benz B Class Electric Drive

The Mercedes-Benz B Class Electric Drive gives electric car entusiasts one more option in the marketplace.

The Mercedes-Benz B Class Electric Drive gives electric car enthusiasts one more option in the marketplace.

  • A small, mini-van-like vehicle powered by a Tesla-supplied electric motor
  • 134 hp with 255 ft-lbs of torque
  • 0-60 mph (0-100 km/h) in “less than 10 seconds,” per Mercedes Benz
  • Range of about 115 miles (varies depending on driving style)
  • The good: it’s definitely coming to the United States, in 2014; packed with refinement and innovative touches
  • The bad: as a Benz, you’ll pay for all that sophistication and premium branding through the nose; nonetheless, it makes EVs seem all the more desirable

 

Volkswagen Up!

Volkswagen has added to its World Car-title winning Up series with an electric version, the e-Up.
Volkswagen has added to its World Car-title winning Up series with an electric version, the e-Up.
  • VW’s first all-electric car (gasoline and natural gas versions available too)
  • 80 hp electric motor with 155 lb-ft of torque
  • Acceleration – 0-60 mph (0-100 km/h) “within 14 seconds,” per Volkswagen
  • Range up to 93 miles
  • Pricing is still unknown (non-electric version starts at about $13,000)
  • The good: it’s another electric, and the gasoline versions are highly fuel-efficient; public response has been largely positive – Up was named 2012 World Car of the Year
  • The bad: don’t expect them in the Americas any time soon; Volkswagen said it has “no immediate plans” for the huge U.S. market – though automakers have been known to change their minds on such things

It’s a hard concept for many (though not all) U.S. drivers to understand, though it seems more easily grasped abroad: These aren’t intended for the long-haul, high-speed, freeway and interstate schlepping that’s commonplace in the United States. They’re meant for the tight-quarters, stop-and-go, difficult-to-park, urban warfare kind of driving … that’s commonplace in U.S. cities and metropolitan areas all over the world.

Neither the B-Class Electric Drive nor the Up will set the EV performance books on fire, and that’s precisely the point. They are two cars that, like the Nissan Leaf and the Smart fortwo Electric Drive, quietly go about their business while freeing their owners from the financial and perhaps the personal, ethical chains that come with our use of petroleum.

What’s your take? Would it be worth shelling out a little extra for an electric drive car up front, versus paying the financial and other costs of a gasoline car over time?

 

  • Brian P Caughlan

    What a crime to think that the Up! and Mercedes electric drive would not be available in the US. It would certainly sell well, as long as they would remain competitive (the Up! today in GB fetches $21K USD, an affordable price). I would certainly purchase one! But, tragically, as long as the oil companies have the upper hand here, it is indeed doubtful we will ever see it on this side of the pond.