Mercedes-Benz will use the Paris motor show in late September to reveal a new electric SUV concept, from which the company will take its first steps towards producing mass-market electric vehicles.
The car will reportedly give a clear insight into what direction Mercedes will take as it develops a range of electric cars. Being an SUV, the concept will likely be compared to the seven-seat Tesla Model X, an electric car which goes on sale in the UK later this year.
While Tesla will have its third mass-production electric car, the Model 3, on sale before the end of 2017 (if it isn't delayed, as the last two Teslas were), Mercedes is claimed to have a goal of releasing its first electric car in 2019. It will be the first in a series of electric Mercedes, and will be followed by a luxury saloon car similar to the Model S, according to "high-ranking insiders" speaking to Autocar.
Although the SUV concept will be Mercedes' first car developed from birth to be electric, the company produced an electric version of the SLS sports car back in 2013. But with a range of just 155 miles and a price of £350,000, it was more of a proof of concept than a car for the masses.
Mercedes has also sold an electric version of the B-Class since 2014, but this is also restricted by a low range, relatively high price, and the compromises inherent with converting an internal combustion car to run on electricity.
Developed as an electric car from day one — the concept (and the production cars it will spawn) will have given its designers a much cleaner slate than they are used to — it could look very different to any of the current Mercedes range.
"We've created a whole new look that takes into consideration the unique properties of electric vehicles," a Mercedes official with knowledge of the SUV concept told Autocar.
The news comes a week after BMW reportedly shifted the focus of its i division. Previously responsible for the i3 electric car and i8 hybrid sports car, the i division will now focus on developing autonomous driving technologies rather than electric vehicles.