Aggressive push comes after the German government announced its electric car purchase incentive scheme

Mercedes-Benz is speeding up its development of electric vehicles with a new goal to have four electric models hit the market by the end of 2020. According to Autocar, the German automaker is looking into developing two sedans and two SUVs that will comprise the first wave of EV models to bear the Silver Arrows badge. Each model will share basic elements with models that are already part of the Merc lineup but for the most part, the EV models will also have distinct design touches that will provide a noticeable differentiation from their conventionally powered counterparts.

The company’s decision to expedite the development of electric vehicles was made in part to jump aboard the German government’s new policy of offering sales subsidies on all EVs priced at less than €60,000, or $67,150 based on current exchange rates. The policy is part of a bigger €1.2 billion ($1.35 billion) incentive scheme that was created to attract would-be auto buyers to consider EVs for their next automotive purchases.

The move can also be seen as Mercedes’ attempt to keep up with the fast-rising EV market, something other automakers, especially Tesla, has taken full advantage of. Clearly, news of the Model 3’s incredible 370,000-plus pre-order total didn’t fall on deaf ears. The popularity of EVs have even hit close to home for Mercedes now that Audi has already made plans to begin the development of a production version of the e-tron quattro concept with an eye towards launching it in 2018.

While Mercedes is still in the embryonic stages in the production development of its EVs, the German automaker isn’t sitting idly by anymore as its competitors gear up for the same push. Investments have been made regarding electric vehicles, most notably a €500 million expansion of its existing battery production facilities in Germany.

Continue after the jump to read the full story.

Why it matters

The move is a welcome surprise, although it really doesn’t come as a shock considering how the world of electric vehicles continues to evolve at a rapid pace. Mercedes’ decision to accelerate its plans could have far-reaching repercussions for the company and the business itself. On a micro level, it puts the German automaker in a position where it has to deliver the goods and do it in manner that’s up to its peerless standards. On that front, it’s too early to tell what the company has in store because it appears that Mercedes is keeping everything sealed at the moment. There’s still no official confirmation on what models the EVs will be based on although outgoing R&D chief Thomas Weber has indicated that the current C-Class and S-Class models, as well as the GLA and GLC SUVs, will serve as the templates for the four EV models that are already being planned.

The GLA-based model, in particular, appears to have been tapped to receive a reworked version of the MFA platform that the company is already using on the B-Class Electric Drive, considered as Merc’s first dedicated EV. On the contrary, the other three models appear to be in line to receive an evolved version of the MRA platform that Mercedes developed for the purpose of using it on electric vehicles. The MRA platform, or MEA as it’s known within Merc’s circles, is reportedly capable of accommodating either rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive in combination with up to three electric motors. The GLC Fuel Cell, which is expected to be released in 2017, has reportedly been tapped to be the first model to make use of this platform. While it’s not necessarily an EV – it’s a hydrogen-powered model – it could, as described by Weber, serve as foundation from where Mercedes’ EV lineup will be built.

It’s also been reported that Mercedes has tapped Accumotive to provide Mercedes with a new generation of lithium-ion battery cells that carry more than 250 miles of range. On that note, expect to hear more details about Mercedes’ renewed push in producing electric vehicles. The gauntlet has been laid down and it’s now up to the German automaker to make sure that the challenge of having these four models out in the market by 2020 is met.

Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive

2014 Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive High Resolution Exterior
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Read our full review on the Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive here.

Source: AutoCar

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