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Driving electric: Everything you need to know


The dawn of the age of electrified driving is among us. With more choice and more acronyms than ever we’ve put together a guide to all things electric.   

 

Types of electrified cars

 

What’s the difference between slow, fast and rapid charging? 

 

What can affect my range?

 

Drive modes explained 

 

 

What are the different types of electrified cars? 


EV stands for Electric Vehicle. You’ll often see the term BEV for Battery Electric Vehicle. 


HEV is a hybrid electric vehicle – using a combination of a conventional engine and transmission with a battery and electric motor. 


PHEV is a plug-in-hybrid electric vehicle. Like a regular HEV but with a much larger battery to allow for longer driving distances without firing up the engine. Called plug-ins due to the ability to plug the battery into an external power source to charge the battery – this is quicker and much more efficient than just using the engine. 


FCEV is a hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle – this uses a fuel cell to turn hydrogen into electricity to power a vehicle.  


MHEV means Mild Hybrid – so called because the electric system will usually be in place to complement the engine rather than replace it or run the car instead of it. The usage of mild hybrid systems varies from manufacturer to manufacturer but for Mercedes-Benz models we call it EQ Boost. 


xEV appears less often but the small “x” stands for all the different types of electrified vehicles. You’ll usually see this when it’s announced how many electrified vehicles have been sold in one month, quarter or year. 

 

self charging hybrid – This term actually refers to HEVs as they do not require any external power sources to top up their batteries. Every hybrid and electric vehicle charges itself or has the ability to replenish the battery either through direct drive from the engine or through regenerative braking. Le Mans Prototypes, Formula E and Formula 1 cars all harvest energy during operation. More on that later. 

 

 

 

 

 

Tell me more about…EQ Boost

EQ Boost sees a small electric motor mounted between the engine and the gearbox which can deliver an additional 14 or 22 hp and 250 nm directly to the drivetrain. EQ Boost is there to supplement the engine; increasing performance and efficiency – reducing emissions and fuel consumptionEQ Boost models are not designed for emissions-free running. 

 

 

    

 

 

 

Tell me more about…PHEVs

Plug-in-hybrids are known as EQ Power in the Mercedes-Benz range and feature electric motor mounted between the engine and gearbox; it’s not mounted on the axles like on some cars. As a result this allows the motor to deliver its power to the drivetrain and allows for all four wheels to be driven by electricity, the engine, or both. 

 

Towards the back of the car there will be a battery mounted under the cabin or under the boot floor, and a charging socket to top up the battery. Depending on the model this will either be on the rear bumper or on the rear haunches like a fuel filler. 

Plug-in-hybrids are able to do longer distances on electric power alone than a conventional hybrid. This is due to the battery being much larger than one that doesn’t take electricity from an external power source – and this is where I think they gain the advantage. If most of your driving is less than 20 miles per day then there’s a good chance that the engine might not need to be fired up most of the time. 

 

They will put energy back into the battery whilst driving through direct drive from the engine or through regenerative braking. More on that later. 

 

The most efficient way to charge a large battery though is to plug it in to an external power source. Charging times will vary depending on the capacity but as a rough rule of thumb you can divide the capacity by the charging rate and that will give you an estimation of how long it will take to charge. For an A 250 e, if you divide the usable capacity (10.6 kWh) by the charging rate (7 kW) that gives me 1.5 – check the technical data in the brochure and you will see it takes just over one and a half hours to fully charge the A 250 e’s battery. 

   

    

 

Tell me more about…Electric Vehicles

EVs, BEVs, electric cars, fully electric cars - the core of our expanding EQ model range. Ultimately this is where passenger cars are going, and Mercedes-EQ will have 10 fully electric models on the roads by the end of next year. It is a seriously exciting time to be in this industry with the sheer volume of new products coming out and the new technologies that they are all bringing to the mix. 

EVs have a slightly simpler setup than the other electrified vehicles – on either axle there’s an electric motor and under the floor there’s a large lithium-ion battery. 

That’s it. 

The electric motors have very few moving parts and are extremely energy efficient. A typical electric motor is somewhere between 70 – 90% efficient meaning that between 70 and 90% of the energy sent to the motor is turned into drive. For comparison, the most efficient combustion engine ever made is the Mercedes-AMG M11 which achieved 50% efficiency. 

Some models are two wheel drive like the EQA 250 and the smart EQ range but 4MATIC is possible by adding another motor to the mix. 

The battery sits under the floor which aids packaging and helps to keep the centre of gravity super low. What this means on the road is that the car will corner with great stability.  

A common question is why some electric cars still have a “transmission tunnel” when there’s no prop shaft or exhaust running to the rear of the car. This is because of control, cooling and power lines that run along the top of the battery to the motor. 

EVs are charged from an external power source and you can use the same capacity divided by charging rate rule of thumb for a rough charging time. 

 

When should I use the battery in a PHEV? 

Plug-in-hybrids will start on electric power. In its default drive setting – Comfort, and in Eco mode, the car will use electric power as much as it can before reverting to the engine. You are able to change the behaviour of the hybrid system by switching through the drive modes with DYNAMIC SELECT – more on that later. 

 

Something that comes up all the time is this: If you’re driving a hybrid on electric power all the time why not just buy a fully electric vehicle? Although the argument does have some merit, I personally think that PHEVs are the most important cars on sale in any manufacturer’s portfolio today. PHEVs are the cars that get people ready to transition over to EVs – having the reassurance of the combustion engine under the skin will help but people will soon realise how much of their driving can be done just using battery power. 

Personally, I think the vast majority of my driving could be done with an EV – and it’s driving PHEVs that brought me to that conclusion.

 

 

                                                                                         

 

 

What’s the difference between slow, fast and rapid charging? 

 


Slow charging is charging your car from a domestic power outlet.  


Fast charging is generally categorised as charging rates between 7 kW and 50 kW. Most wallboxes at home are able to deliver 7 kW charging; public chargers tend to be upwards of 7 kW. 


Rapid charging is generally seen as charging above 50 kW and often using direct current. 


AC / DC? What is the difference? 


There are two types of electrical current – or the flow of electricity. Alternating current and direct current. The easiest thing to know is that batteries store and release energy in direct current, electric motors and domestic power outlets use alternating current.  


When you plug your car – or your phone into a power source it will take the AC electricity and convert it into DC before storing it. This is done through an onboard charger which has a set rate at which it will accept and convert charge. 


If you plug your EQC with a 11 kW onboard charger into a 22 kW power outlet it will charge at 11 kW as this is the maximum AC rate it can take. Charging a 2 kW power source into an EQC will not, however, bump the current up to 22 kW. 


Charging on direct current or DC effectively allows the energy to go straight into the battery without having to be converted, can be delivered at much higher rates and this reduces charging times. So, an EQC can charge at 11 kW on an AC charger and 110 kW on a DC rapid charger. This brings the time for a 10 - 80% charge down to just 40 minutes. 


10-80%? 


Yes. Lithium-ion batteries don’t have a linear charging profile – they will automatically slow the rate of charge once they reach 80% full. Charging a battery is a lot like pouring a beer – which, for legal reasons, this isn’t. You’ll always finish pouring your drink much slower than you start pouring it – to avoid spilling the precious beer and looking like a total moron. Batteries are exactly the same – they heat up as they charge so reducing the rate of charge as they get full helps to reduce the risk of overheating or damaging the cells. 


Your phone will do exactly the same thing. Batteries charge fastest between 10 and 80% capacity and the remaining 20% top up can take just as long as the bulk of the charge beforehand. 

 

 

    


What can affect my range? 


Driving style is one of the biggest things that can affect your range. We’ve all seen plenty of videos of EVs blasting away from a standstill doing 10-second quarter miles and whilst this is fun and impressive it’s not going to help you get maximum range. If you drive your car like it’s a stolen rental car then you shouldn’t be surprised to see the car telling you to top up the tank after a morning rather than a week. 


Another is temperature. Lithium-ion batteries have an optimum operating temperature of around 20 degrees. Big temperature differences – higher or lower – can affect how much range the battery will show. Think back to when you were last out in freezing temperatures building a snowman, did you notice your phone’s battery going down rather quickly?  


You guessed it, it’s exactly the same in an EV as it is with your phone – just the battery in an EQC is around 25,000 times larger than what my phone has. 


How can I help it? 


One of the easiest tricks in the book is to use pre-entry climate control. Doing this will get energy flowing and get the battery up to temperature for when you start your journey. As well as meaning the air conditioning won’t need to work as hard when you’re on the move, if the car is plugged in to a power source it will replace any energy used straight away – again helping to get the battery up to temperature. 


The cars take everything into account and aim to give you a projected range as accurate as possible. Previous energy consumption will affect how far the car thinks you will be able to drive. Again, it’s exactly the same as a combustion powered car; if you average 25 mpg on a tank the car will predict a totally different range to if you averaged 50 mpg on a tank. 


What’s the equivalent of miles per gallon? 


With no petrol, diesel or coal to burn the way electric cars consume their fuel is measured slightly differently. Rather than miles per gallon consumption can be measured in miles per kilowatt hour of m/kWh. A little bit of maths can help you predict how much range you’ll get: multiply the battery capacity by your consumption and this will give you an indication of how far you could go. 


So let’s say you get 3 m/kWh in an EQC. Multiply 80 (battery capacity) by 3 (consumption) and this gives you 240. 


Think of it this way – the battery has 80 kWh capacity so if each kWh can take you 3 miles then you’d potentially get 240 miles from your 80 kWh.  


 

 

   


Drive modes explained  

 

EV 

For smart EQ models it’s easy – one standard drive mode and then hit the ECO button to increase the regeneration. 


For Mercedes-EQ models you’ll see some familiar drive modes from the regular Mercedes-Benz range. Comfort, Eco and Sport. 


Comfort is the default setting, Eco will reduce power consumption from ancillary components like the air conditioning and alter the power delivery in the interest of conserving energy and increasing range. Veloce turns everything up – sharpening the motor response and increasing steering wheel feedback for a more engaging drive. 


MAX RANGE (shown as MR) gets really clever – this is best used with a destination set in the navigation. It functions similar to Eco mode but takes it a step further using the haptic accelerator and speed limit assist to not let you exceed either the current speed limit or the target speed to ensure you reach your destination.  


PHEV 


Comfort and Eco are hybrid modes – you’ll start on electric power and the engine will only fire up if your right foot demands it.  


Battery Level (shown as BL) is great for long distance drives. Let’s say that you’re driving from central London – my favourite place to drive in the country – to central Manchester, you can use electric power in the city, flick the car into BL for the motorway section and this will maintain the charge level of the battery – feeding power back to it through regeneration. This is a great setting to use if your drive is split into different sections – use the engine where it is most efficient and use the electric drive where that is most efficient – in town. 


Sport mode in a PHEV switches on the engine and will use the hybrid system as a power booster to provide maximum performance. It’s pretty addictive.  


All Mercedes-EQ models gain an individual setting too which allows you to configure different drive and vehicle settings to customise your drive.

 

    


What is regeneration?  


Regeneration is what any electrified vehicle will do to recover energy for later use. When you lift off the throttle you may feel the car start to slow down as if it’s doing some engine braking. When you touch the brake pedal the car will harvest more energy as you slow down. You could even call it free electricity…anyway. Regenerative braking recovers some of the energy that would usually be wasted as heat or sound when driving. 


This applies to Mercedes-Benz EQ models as well as EQ Power plug-in-hybrids in their EV mode introduced from 2019 onwards. 


The amount of regen can be varied by using the gearshift paddles behind the steering wheel. Press the – paddle to add more regen, + to reduce it. 


You’ll see what regen setting you are in on the instrument cluster next to the D symbol. From least to most regen the settings are:  

 

D+ 


D –  
D - -  

 

The last two modes are best used in stop start traffic or in town and can allow you to use one pedal driving. You’ll get the hang of that in no time. 
Pressing and holding the + paddle in the EQC will activate DAUTO – this is where the magic starts to happen. This setting uses the car’s sensors and navigation data to vary the amount of regeneration used – it can react to the topography of the world around you and, say, if you’re going down a hill apply the right amount of regeneration to recover some energy whilst maintaining your speed. 
If it sounds like there’s a lot going on here that’s because…there is. But believe me this is the mode I’d recommend because it feels the most natural to me. 

 

Where can I charge my car? 


There are well over 34,000 plug-in points across the UK and this number is growing rapidly. This is up from less than 18,000 at the end of 2019. Charging stations are less obvious than petrol stations as they take up a lot less space so you need to look out for them. One of the most subtle yet brilliant solutions is to place a charging point within a street light. I think that’s awesome. 


If you’re unsure of where to charge then use the Mercedes me or smart EQ control apps to help locate charging stations. Once you’ve found where you’d like to go you can send the route to your Mercedes-Benz or use your phone map to take you there in the smart. 


DC rapid chargers are springing up along motorways and if you’re heading towards one of these in an EQC or an EQA the car can start to get the battery ready to accept charge when it arrives. 


Lastly, you can charge the car at home. 


Either from a domestic socket or through a wallbox. Cars tend to spend 80% of their lives sitting around doing nothing so this is prime time to charge them up. 

 

  


How do I pay for charging?  


If you’re charging at home the cost will be added to your electricity bill. The easiest way to work out the cost of charging is to multiply your energy unit cost by the battery capacity. For the EQC – if I ran it completely flat – this would be 16.5p/kWh (£0.165) (the UK’s average energy cost) multiplied by 80 kWh which gives me £13.20. Filling up my car costs me nearly 6x that amount.  


On the go you will either just be able to use a contactless card although lots of charging point providers offer preferential energy costs for those that are signed up. 


To make charging easy for our Mercedes-EQ customers you can sign up to Mercedes me Charge. This provides transparent billing for all your electricity used each month. A Mercedes me Charge card can give you access to thousands of charging points across the UK as well as preferential rates at the IONITY rapid charging network. 


What if my route is longer than my range? 


Mercedes me allows you to plan routes before you get wiggling. Let’s say we want to go from Hertford to Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. Now there’s an idea for a future video. If required, the car will automatically plan in charging stops along the way and will prioritise the fastest chargers it can find. It will also ensure I arrive at each stop with at least 10% charge remaining and continuously monitors your energy consumption and can add in additional stops whilst you are on the move. 


What if I run out of charge in my EV? 


You stop. Just like you would if you run out of petrol, diesel, or peanut oil. A lot was engineered into the EQ range to be as similar to driving a combustion powered car as possible. When you’re starting to run low on charge it will give you a warning and suggest places to charge on the navigation. If you ignore this message or clear it – which requires conscious input – it will warn you again when you get really low on charge. Once again it will suggest places to charge on the navigation. 


Just like with running out of fuel, you’ve got to be pretty hell bent on running out of charge. One difference does appear here – there’s no “reserve charge” in the battery; if you go below 0 you stop. 

 

 Packaging has been a priority for the plug-in-hybrids as the addition of the electric powertrain means there’s a lot of stuff to fit in to the car. For example on the compact models the battery is located where the fuel tank used to be – under the rear seats – and the fuel tank has been moved to sit within the rear subframe. The exhaust now exits in the centre of the car rather than running to the back so the impact on boot space is minimal.  

 

 

  

 

 

Are electric cars good for the environment?  


For this section we’ll focus mainly on the EVs. Battery electric cars – and to an extent the EQ Power models – are zero local emissions cars. Running on electricity produces no local emissions however the electricity needs to come from somewhere. 


The aim from Mercedes-Benz is for our EQ customers to be able to run their cars on renewable wherever possible. Running an electric car on renewable energy over its lifetime can reduce its carbon footprint compared to a combustion car by over 75%. That is a huge reduction.  


Each year I make around 7 tonnes of carbon dioxide from my exhaust pipes – and some lovely noises too but 7 tonnes is the same weight as a small bus. Knowing I make the weight of a bus in CO2 each year has started to make me think. 


In the UK our energy mix is heading towards being mostly renewable. In fact, it’s quite interesting to look at the stats available for what’s powering the national grid at the moment. On average in the last year 40% of the UK’s energy was fossil fuel and 60% was made up of low carbon and renewable fuels. I think that’s pretty impressive.  


Renewable energy is something that Mercedes-Benz is heavily invested in with all European production set to be carbon neutral by 2022.  


As well as the production line, carbon neutrality extends to the track too with the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship being certified as a carbon neutral motorsport, and the Mercedes-Benz EQ Formula E team has already been awarded the maximum three-star status for sustainability from the FIA and runs the EQ Silver Arrows purely on energy generated by offshore wind farms. 


All IONITY charging points across the UK and Europe deliver 100% renewable energy too.  


You can make a difference too by choosing an energy supplier which generates electricity from low carbon or renewable energy sources. Keep the pressure on – we can all make some real change here. 


Our models are 85% recyclable and at the end of their life up to 95% of the car can be repurposed. When a battery is no longer suitable for use in an EV it could become part of an energy storage network for commercial or home use. The list of possibilities are endless.  


Are they completely silent? 


Not quite. All cars capable of zero-emissions running must emit some sort of noise when travelling at low speeds. All our plug-in-hybrid and battery electric vehicles have an acoustic presence warning generator built in. This emits a sound when driving below 18 mph and switches off at higher speeds – this is because the sound of tyres and air becomes more noticeable above these speeds. Just think about it, when you hear a car coming towards you is it the sound of the tyres or the engine you hear first? 


It works – I’d say the noise coming from the cars draws more attention than the sound of an engine turning as it’s this strange white noise whirring. When reversing the car will also emit a beeping sound to warn people of your movements. 


Impact on boot space? 

 

Packaging has been a priority for the plug-in-hybrids as the addition of the electric powertrain means there’s a lot of stuff to fit in to the car. For example on the compact models the batter is located where the fuel tank used to be – under the rear seats – and the fuel tank has been moved to sit within the rear subframe. The exhaust now exits in the centre of the car rather than running to the back so the impact on boot space is minimal.  

 

   

 

New or used?  


The first Mercedes-Benz plug-in-hybrid was the S 500 plug-in-hybrid and this was shortly followed by a plug-in C-Class in 2015. Whether you are looking for a new or used plug-in-hybrid there are plenty to choose from. Fully electric cars are also making their way to the used market with EQCs and smart EQs available as approved used cars from us here at Mercedes-Benz Hertfordshire.  


Do they drive themselves? 


Whilst autonomous cars are coming they are still in a huge testing and development phase. The Mercedes-Benz Driving Assistance Package is available on all our plug-in-hybrids and Mercedes-EQ models which brings even more intelligent technology to the range.  


It does what it says on the tin – assisting you to drive but making sure you are still in control of the car. I think that’s how it should be. The radar and LIDAR guided cruise control is able to help maintain a safe distance to the car in front and the cars also use their navigation data to adjust your speed to the road and speed limits ahead. 


Range anxiety? 


The more time I spend with electric cars the less I worry about how much juice is in the battery. Part of this is due to knowing that I’ve got enough range to complete my driving for a few days at least. Initially, you will find yourself staring at the remaining range display but I’d encourage you to put some tape over it or something. 


I started to hate my own car when I kept staring at the fuel economy – and started paying far more attention to getting my consumption to start with a 3 rather than a 2 and it did wind me up. Eventually I remembered that I didn’t buy my car to get super high fuel economy and pretending that I could or would ruined it for me.  


I fell back in love with my car when I put tape over the economy reading – I don’t care whether I get 31 or 19 to the gallon, I bought my car to drive it and enjoy it.  


My point is that once you’ve got used to an EV, the charging schedule that suits your driving, your typical mileage, just put some tape over your remaining range display. Know that there are 34,000 places to charge an EV in the UK and this number is growing rapidly. The car is here to help you and can point you in the direction of chargers whether your battery is almost full or almost empty. 


The conclusion I arrived at after living with an EQC was that I didn’t feel constrained by having a battery under the floor. When it runs out I top it up. Just like if I was using something powered by petrol, diesel or tequila.  


Do I need to drive these cars any differently? 


Yes and no. I’ve been hopping in and out of all sorts of electrified cars for a while now that they just feel normal to me. You will naturally drive a little bit more economically in an electrified car – it just happens. I recommend that you play around with the regen settings and find which one works best for you as you’re getting used to the car. 


If anything, you just need to look a little further ahead and anticipate what’s about to happen and react accordingly. Early, smooth reactions and managing the power/regeneration will help you to make the most of your range. 


Don’t worry, you don’t need to re-take your driving test to drive an EV. A lot of time and effort has gone into making sure these cars are as normal to drive as possible; the first few times you drive an EV or a PHEV you’ll be very conscious of the fact that it’s electric. After a few stints behind the wheel that thought fades away from your mind.  


Are electrified cars fun to drive? 


Yes. In a nutshell, yes. I will always have a soft spot for the smart range as I just love small cars and being able to extract all the performance from them nearly all the time. Instant response from the electric motor makes these models a force to be reckoned with in the city. 


The plug-in-hybrids are hugely entertaining in their Sport setting as the combination of the engine and battery power means you’re hardly ever wishing for more performance – regen when you lift off allows you to arrive at the corner at the right speed too. The electric motor helps get you up to speed and the engine keeps you pulling. That said, I recently took a CLA 250 e along a great stretch of tarmac and completely forgot to switch the drive mode from electric to sport. 


Fully electric cars are great to press on with too. 


Hustling EQCs along twisty roads is something I never get tired of – the mixture of the super low centre of gravity, instant response from the motors and constantly flicking between regen settings on the paddles makes it a really enjoyable, engaging thing to flow through the countryside with. Use the weight to your advantage – EVs are happiest when they’re guided into corners rather than thrown into them. 


But if we take a look at the entire range of electrified cars we can’t forget EQ Boost and how it’s already made its way to the AMG family. 


The one that stands above them all as a drive I wish I could do again and again was with the Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 going along one of my favourite stretches of road from end to end. That was my first time in an electrified performance car and it’s fair to say it has set my bar pretty high for the future of performance models. 

 

    


Which one should I choose? 


There’s a whole host of options available. Think about your driving profile, whether most of your journeys are around town and how often you find yourself going from a place with no Ls in the name to one with 11. To help you decide I’d recommend downloading the EQ Ready app from Mercedes-Benz. Let it analyse your driving for a few days and it will point you in the direction of which electrified car suits how you drive. 


Plug-in-hybrids have made their way across almost the entire Mercedes-Benz model range and at the moment we have three fully electric Mercedes-EQ models as well as the smart EQ range too. 2021 is going to be a big year for new EQ products – kicking off with the new EQA here but there is a lot more to come. 

 

                                                                                                                       


 

 

                                                                                  

 

 

 

 

                                                                                   

 

 

                                                                                  

 

 

 

 

                                                                                  

 

 

                                                                                     

 

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