An early morning phone conference Q&A session with journalists from all over the world is one of the odder experiences of the pandemic.
I’m supposed to ask a question, but I cannot think of anything. I feel so dumb and the questions are all from Dutch and Asian journalists and of course they’re insightful, illuminating and mostly very well informed.
It’s even harder than yet another zoom call, I can’t see who’s talking and I’m not aware who else is on the call. However all the questions and answers are all in English, one of the oddities of our collective history, despite recent decisions of British voters, everyone within that community communicates with each other in English.
So this is what I’ve learned about the upcoming Mercedes EQA, and I learned this from the other journalists on the call.
First things first, the Mercedes EQA (under £40,000 in the British Isles) is being marketed as the first fully electric ‘compact model.’
A quick glance of the recently released images shows it’s roughly the same size at the Hyundai Kona, the Kia e-Niro and literally dozens of other new electric cars. It’s a compact SUV with an emphasis on SUV, it’s not a hatchback.
How come Honda with the e, Fiat with the 500 e, Renault with the Zoe, Nissan with the Leaf to name a few, have managed to make small, compact hatch back cars with ranges from decent to impressive, without making another wretched SUV.
Why didn’t Mercedes make a small hatchback asked a very perceptive Dutch auto journalist, the answer from Alex Heix from Mercedes, was that putting batteries under the car reduces passenger space. He said “a hatchback has very low roofline and the battery would mean reduced space for occupants.”
This is not something that seems to apply to some competitors, Nissan, Renault, or indeed like Tesla where although not a hatchback, the Model 3 has a floor made of batteries in a car with a low roofline.
Mercedes EQA comes with a 66 kWh battery and is built to accept a 100 kW rapid charge.
They were very proud of their navigation system, which on long journeys builds in charging stops and how long you need to charge at each point. It suggests you only charge for the amount of time you need to safely complete the journey.
I don’t want to hark back to Tesla, but my Model S had exactly the same system, with faster charging capability, a reliable network of charge points all over Europe that required no memberships, special cards or even tap to pay systems. And they had all this 7 years ago.
In more positive news, although Mercedes are not releasing information about their new, improved battery cooling system, it’s clearly a step up in the technology as they are claiming that the pack can be charged at 100kW for longer, meaning you are adding more range in a shorter time.
This car is built in Russia and China. I wonder if the people who are very critical of us covering Chinese cars due to the horrific treatment of the Uighurs will refuse to buy a Chinese built Mercedes.
We also didn’t learn where the battery cells Mercedes use are from? They won’t reveal where they acquire the cells, but they build the packs in Europe and China.
I’ll tell you where the battery cells are from, China. As are many of the other electronic components, and there’s a problem with this system. Sorry, let me explain the system as it’s not new and it’s been growing since the early 1980’s.
Back in 1980 a total of 1% of all global manufacturing was done in China. Today, 28% of everything manufactured on the planet by human beings and robots is made in China.
Did the Chinese come to the British Isles, Germany, the USA and steal the manufacturing base? Did they?
Or did the big corporations based in those countries work out they could make higher profits by making stuff in China where the labour costs were infinitesimal and the tax concessions, the health care costs, the pollution, energy use and all the externalities of manufacturing were moved discreetly offshore.
And now that system is coming back to bite companies like Mercedes in the bum. They are 100% reliant on China, 100% reliant on doing deals with China and of course not really taking too much notice of the appalling genocide of the Uighurs.
This morning I learned there is a shortage of electronic components which is holding back the entire automotive sector, it’s not affecting electric models specifically. But it is affecting manufacturing outside China.
There is currently a slightly panicked ‘kick bollock scramble’ to relaunch European and American manufacturing, particularly in battery and electronics production.
After a while I realise why I hate these calls and indeed press launches of new electric cars.
I always forget that some automotive journalists are massive reactionary petrolheads. One absolute dunderhead asked ‘are you concerned about the fire risk of battery vehicles, we are all aware of how many of them catch fire…”
I want to remind this fossil fume addled brained pillock that in the USA alone, there are over 10 Million combustion vehicle fires a year, resulting in 19,000 Deaths And 70,000 Injuries
But as usual, don’t let facts spoil a good Fox News headline.
Anyway, I’m looking forward to test driving the EQA even if it is another compact SUV that is built in Russia or China.