Mercedes-Benz has announced that it plans to launch its second series-built electric car which will be based on a five-door version of its latest A-Class subcompact model. Production of 500 of these series-build Mercedes-Benz A-Class E-Cell variants will start this fall at the automaker's facility in Rastatt, Germany, which is also home to the standard A-Class. The new E-Cell will be leased to selected customers in several European countries, principally Germany, France and the Netherlands.

Dubbing it a "family electric car for urban areas," Mercedes says the E-Cell offers the same levels of passenger and cargo space as the conventional A-Class. To optimize cost efficiencies, the A-Class E-Cell will use the same modular electric-drive elements from the Mercedes B-Class F-Cell fuel cell vehicle and the lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery storage units introduced in the smart fortwo ED.

Beneath the hood of the A-Class E-Cell lies an electric motor that makes 68 continuous horsepower but can deliver up to 95 ponies and 214 lb-ft of peak torque in max-effort mode. A pair of compact Li-ion battery packs with a total capacity of 36 kWh gives the vehicle a per-charge range of up to 124 miles and will let it hit 60 mph in about 13.5 seconds and top out at 93 mph. The batteries employ liquid cooling to optimize their operational efficiency and can be replenished in about eight hours using standard European 230V outlets or in about three hours on a dedicated commercial charger. The A-Class E-Cell also features the same "SmartCharge Communication" intelligent charging management system as the smart fortwo, which allows all relevant information, including the electricity supply contract identification data, to be exchanged with the charging point in order to create a more convenient framework for automated billing.

Like the conventional A-Class, the E-Cell uses a "sandwich" structure floor that enhances passenger safety in case of a head-on impact. It also allows the battery packs to be positioned low in the vehicle to improve its handling while keeping them outside of the deformation zones. Other key commonalities with the standard A-Class include a full range of vehicle dynamics systems plus front/side/rear window airbags.

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