{include_content_item 2218}Mercedes-Benz automobiles and research cars with electric drive: A longstanding tradition of electric drive systems

The first Mercedes electric car, the “Electrique”, could be seen on the roads in Austria at the turn of the twentieth century. However, electric drive systems could not compete with the internal combustion engine in terms of power and range. Intensive Mercedes-Benz research into solutions for locally emission-free mobility since the 1970s has yielded a wealth of experience in electric drive systems.

1906 – Daimler-Motoren-Commanditgesellschaft in Austria launched its first series-produced electric cars: the battery-powered Mercédès Electrique and the Mercédès Mixte with hybrid drive.

1972 – Electric drive system trialled from 1972 to 1974 in the LE 306 van. In spite of the size and weight of the batteries, the vehicle had a range of just 65 kilometres, with a maximum speed of 70 km/h.

1982 – The batteries used in trial electric cars in 1982 were smaller and lighter than the power plant in the LE 306, but still failed to meet the requirements for normal everyday use. The battery pack took up the entire luggage compartment of the estate car.

1992 – From 1992 to 1996 Mercedes-Benz and other automakers tested passenger cars with lead and ZEBRA batteries on the island of Rügen. The car shown in the photograph is the Mercedes-Benz 190 electric concept car (W 201), introduced in 1990.

1994 – Introduction of the NECAR 1 (New Electric Car) as the first automobile with a fuel-cell drive system. The fuel-cell system took up the entire cargo space of the van.

1997 – NECAR 3: the first fuel-cell car to use methanol as a liquid hydrogen storage medium. However, the technology of the on-board methanol conversion process proved too complex. So, Daimler decided to concentrate on the use of hydrogen gas.

1998 – Prototype with electric drive: the Mercedes-Benz A‑Class prototype, with a drive system powered from a ZEBRA high-powered nickel-chloride battery.

2003 – In the A‑Class F‑CELL, the entire fuel-cell system is placed in the sandwich floor structure. In 2004 this became the world’s first fuel-cell car to be supplied to customers.

2005 – Unveiling of the F 600 HYGENIUS at the Tokyo Motor Show: the new fuel-cell stack structure was 40 percent smaller than in the A‑Class F‑CELL, delivering 30 percent more power.

2006 – Daimler now had a fleet of more than 100 fuel-cell vehicles in use by customers worldwide, from the A‑Class to the Citaro-Bus. These vehicles have now clocked up more than 4.5 million kilometres of emission-free driving.

2007 – Start of a large-scale test in London involving 100 first-generation smart fortwo electric drive cars: the electric-drive two-seater with a sodium-nickel-chloride ZEBRA high-power battery impressed with its environmental qualities and everyday functionality, and was also a pleasure to drive and extremely easy to operate.

2008 – Launch of the first “e-mobility” initiative in September, in the presence of German Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel. The aim of this pioneering joint project for environmentally responsible urban electric mobility was to demonstrate the efficient use of state-of-the-art electric cars in conjunction with a customer-friendly charging infrastructure.

2009 – In November 2009, Daimler started production of two electric cars. Series production of the smart fortwo electric drive kicked off with a run of 1000 units, with the first customers taking delivery at the beginning of “e-mobility Berlin” on 17 December. The smart fortwo electric drive was subsequently supplied to customers in Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, Spain, France and Switzerland, and also Canada and the USA.