It didn’t take long for the inventor of the motor car to stretch its legs in the electrified space. German legacy automaker Mercedes-Benz recently debuted the Concept CLA Class, an electric sedan with the potential to kickstart the three-pointed star’s dominance in the EV sector. In 2022, Mercedes-Benz and its Vision EQXX electric concept clocked 621 miles (1,000 kilometers) on public roads before running out of juice, a journey that took the car from Sindelfingen, Germany, to Cassis, France.
However, the most impressive part is not the 621 miles on a single full charge but rather how little electricity the vehicle needed to achieve the feat. The Vision EQXX needed only 14 kWh per 100 miles. For perspective, the EPA lists the 2023 Hyundai Ioniq 6 Long Range RWD at 24 kWh/100 miles, magnifying Mercedes-Benz’s achievement with its hypermiler electric concept.
Concept CLA Class: Setting The Stage
Yes, the Mercedes Vision EQXX was nothing more than an experimental car. But knowing Mercedes-Benz, its concept cars are merely pre-production variants hiding underneath groovier sheet metal. All the learnings in battery chemistries, active aero, and state-of-the-art electric drive units from the Vision EQXX would eventually flow down to pre-production cars like the newest Concept CLA Class (and then to full prodcution cars). Still, we weren’t expecting it to be a stylish coupe-shaped sedan (with a face reminiscent of the all-new fifth-generation Prius from some angles), given the speedy vibes of the Vision EQXX concept.
“The Concept CLA Class is the forerunner for an entirely new all-electric segment of entry-level vehicles at Mercedes-Benz,” said Ola Källenius, Chief Executive Officer, Mercedes-Benz Group AG. “Based on the MMA platform, it provides an insight into the first complete family of Mercedes-Benz electric cars developed from scratch to put our Ambition 2039 on the road, whereby we aim to achieve net carbon neutrality along the entire value chain in our fleet of new vehicles in 2039.”
Concept CLA Class: The One-Liter Car of EVs
It’s refreshing to see a future EV that boasts more about efficiency and range than blistering performance. The Mercedes-Benz Concept CLA Class is the culmination of many innovations that allow it to achieve 466 miles (755 kilometers) in the WLTP cycle, or about 5.2 miles per kWh, better than the Mercedes-Benz EQS’ 4.4 miles and almost near the Vision EQSS’ record-breaking 6.2 miles.
The magic starts with the MMA (Mercedes-Benz Modular Architecture) platform referenced by Källenius, featuring CO2-reduced aluminum and CO2-free steel. It includes a next-gen Mercedes-Benz Electric Drive Unit (MB.EDU) that incorporates the motor, gearbox, and power electronics in a lightweight package weighing no more than 243 lbs. There’s a single 175 kW (235 horsepower) electric motor and a two-speed transmission governed by a single processor and a silicon carbide inverter inherited from the Vision EQXX concept, enabling it to sip power gingerly like a light emitting diode (LED).
Featuring an 800V electrical architecture and a rear-wheel drivetrain, Mercedes claims the Concept CLA’s 12 kWh/100 kilometers of energy consumption makes it the one-liter car of the electric age. “The technology that provides the foundation for the Concept CLA Class represents a new approach for Mercedes-Benz and incorporates many learnings from our groundbreaking Vision EQXX technology program,” said Markus Schäfer, Member of the Board of Management of Mercedes-Benz Group AG, Chief Technology Officer.
Two Available Battery Chemistries
The Mercedes EV of the future will allow clients to choose from two different batteries: a silicon-oxide anode or lithium-iron phosphate battery. The range-topping CLA that achieves 5.2 miles per kWh of energy has a silicon-oxide battery with a higher energy density. At the same time, entry-level variants will feature the latter with a more compact cell arrangement.
However, both feature a screw-less installation and are fixed to the chassis using adhesives, a technique Mercedes claims reduces weight while further stiffening the MMA chassis. When the batteries run dry, the 800-volt electrical system supports up to 250 kW of DC fast charging, replenishing 248 miles (400 kilometers) of juice in 15 minutes. In addition, the system unlocks bi-directional charging that supports Vehicle-to-Home (V2H) or Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) capabilities.
MBUX Superscreen & MB.OS Chip-to-Cloud Hardware
The Mercedes-Benz Concept CLA Class and its MMA platform will be the first to debut the brand’s MBUX Superscreen and MB.OS software. Inspired by the MBUX Hyperscreen from the EQS, the MBUX Superscreen is a three-piece glass panel with real-time graphics, 3D navigation, and ambient lighting with sound effects. It features artificial intelligence (AI) powered by a proprietary MB.OS software that has chip-to-cloud hardware designed in collaboration with NVIDIA.
The Concept CLA Class is SAE Level 2 capable and features lidar-supplemented sensing technology for hands-free driving. In addition, the potent MB.OS architecture also features an advanced child presence detection system that can sense the “gentle breathing” of a sleeping newborn.
Concept CLA Class: Hypermiling Future EVs
The concept’s “sensual purity” body styling may not reach production standards, and that’s fine. What matters is the technology underneath that enables future EVs to have no hints of range anxiety, which some consumers still cite as a potential concern. The CLA is not alone, as Mercedes-Benz has a four-door coupe, a station wagon, and a pair of SUVs waiting in the wings, all underpinned by the MMA platform and supported by the brand’s hi-tech hardware and software.
Whatever the case, we’re issuing a plea to Mercedes to retain the star-shaped headlight clusters of the Concept CLA, a remarkably quirky attribute previously unseen in any production car. “The Concept CLA Class marks the start of a new era,” said Gorden Wagener, Chief Design Officer, Mercedes-Benz Group AG. “It reinterprets iconic elements of the brand’s rich design heritage to craft the new face of Mercedes-Benz.”
Alvin Reyes is an Automoblog feature columnist and an expert in sports and performance cars. He studied civil aviation, aeronautics, and accountancy in his younger years and is still very much smitten to his former Lancer GSR and Galant SS. He also likes fried chicken, music, and herbal medicine.