Mercedes-Benz has wrapped its real-world study on electric mobility and come to several conclusions, many of which aren’t noteworthy but do validate the hypotheses of many automakers that have jumped head first into the EV waters.
An acronym of sorts, eMERGE (standing for Electric Mobility Model Regions) took a holistic approach to usage of electric vehicles and their charging, as well as the marketing of electric mobility. It was all based on customer usage (both private and business), over two years (from May 2013 to July 2015) and over a million km of driving, in the German regions of Berlin and Rhine-Ruhr. The end goal was the long-term market success of electric cars, and included a host of communications, education and government groups in addition to Daimler, which provided 146 Smart Fortwo electric cars for the project.
The project looked at owner behaviour (how far would they travel, how often they charged, how long their charging was, etc.) and also intelligent charging systems (what time of day people charged, where vehicles were charged, how much it cost, etc.). There were also regular interviews with the participants to gain subjective knowledge the vehicles couldn’t provide. Daimler was entrusted with the physical collection of data through the cars’ computers.
“The participants in the eMERGE research project have made a key contribution to the mobility of the future. With their assistance, we have scientifically investigated the real-world customer use of electric cars and thereby obtained valuable data to help us develop future electric cars,” says Harald Kröger, Head of Development Electrics/Electronics & E-Drive Mercedes-Benz Cars. “Increasingly low-cost battery systems will enable us to offer our customers ever more attractive prices in future. However, we also advocate an attractive system of incentives capable of giving a quick boost to electric mobility. Daimler already offers the world's most diverse fleet of electric and hybrid vehicles and is continuing to invest heavily in the development of alternative drive systems.”
Mercedes is expecting to have 10 electric models by 2017, and is planning farther down the road with fuel-cell vehicles (hydrogen fuelled).
The study found that electric vehicles are financially attractive to drivers who average about 50 km per day. The owners of those vehicles are described as tech savvy (finding from interviews that people knew less about electric mobility were more negative in their opinions. Further, although things such as price, range and charging locations and time were important factors in the decision to buy an electric vehicle, great importance was put on image, but less importance was placed on environmental concerns.
The project also found that in order for a wide-ranging electric vehicle network to become established, about a quarter of the charging infrastructure has to be located in public places, with more than half located in semi-private locations (shopping centres, recreational facilities, etc.).
There were a couple milestones set along the way, though. The lowest average energy consumption over one year was 10.4 kWh/100 km (the gasoline equivalent of 1.17 litres per 100 km), while the longest distance travelled on a single charge was 161 kilometres. The Smart Fortwo electric drive is rated at 16.3 kWh/100 km (1.83 Le/100km) and a range of 145 kilometres.
Mercedes is already planning for the next stage – Emerge2 – which will see up to 200 B-Class electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids used in Berlin/Potsdam, Stuttgart, Rhine-Ruhr and Rhine-Main regions. The vehicle switch may provide further insight into vehicle usage, while the use of hybrids will tap into a different demographic of buyer.