Still not convinced by this whole electric vehicle thing?
Rather hang on to the old gas guzzler for a few more years – until this whole clean energy craze either runs out of steam or just disappears?
Hmm. Perhaps it’s time for a bit of an update.
The age of the EV (electric vehicle) is almost here. And it’s going to arrive sooner than imagined.
The fact Australia’s prime minister, not exactly an early adopter of clean technology, has this week pledged a wad of cash to greatly expand the country’s EV charging network is just one hint.
But consider this.
At last count, more than 20 mainstream manufacturers had launched, or announced, a commitment to electric models, many of them bound for the Australian market.
From Renault to Range Rover, Mini to Mazda and Volvo to Volkswagen, they’re all on the electric bus.
The much-loved V8s still have plenty of life. But electric cars, by and large, are actually faster and more fun to drive than the old bangers.
Price remains an issue, as does range anxiety – for now. But as volumes grow and purpose-built electric models increase in number, those prices will come down.
One major player will be Mercedes-Benz (yes, it was Mr Benz who invented the motor car) with their all-new EQ range of emissions-free luxury machines.
The German marque says it will offer three electric-only platforms by 2025, and has just announced plans to build eight “giga-factories” to make its own batteries and electric components. All of which makes it timely to be behind the wheel of Mercedes’ entry-level electric model, the EQA.
Already this Mercedes-Benz shapes as a potential game-changer, as one of the first to start bridging the price gap between electric models and traditional, petrol-driven cars.
Priced from $76,800 the EQA is still not cheap – few cars with that three-point star on the bonnet are. But that price represents a premium of less than 10 per cent over its petrol equivalent and considering it will not require petrol for the term of its natural life, that starts to make pretty decent sense.
Few Mercedes-Benz buyers baulk at any sub-$100K price – so this car will seem like an absolute bargain for well-heeled, urban buyers who want to be seen as good citizens.
The EQA is broadly based on the same underpinnings as the conventional GLA models, the smallest of Benz’s SUV models and one of the most popular ways to get a foothold into the Mercedes-Benz family.
It brings a full-range of equipment including heated, ventilated and electrically operated seats. There’s also a gesture-control tailgate, 19-inch alloys, dual-zone climate control, video-based instrument panel and the 10.25-inch MBUX infotainment system. The cabin mirrors that of the A-Class models which are a stand-out in their class.
With a range of 426km the EQA will all but relieve the anxiety that drivers will venture off somewhere and not be able to get back. It is, after all, an urban-focused machine with all the flexibility and capability of a compact SUV.
It brings the same poised, refined ride as the standard GLA, although there’s no disguising the additional weight of those big batteries beneath the floor. So the EQA is not quite as light on its feet as the GLA, with a slight tendency to understeer when pushed hard into the curvy bits. The payback is that, particularly at highway speeds, the EQA feels even more sturdy and well-grounded than its alter-ego.
It’s also quiet. At 60km/h the only noise in the cockpit is a faint whir – not from the engine but from the little fans that ventilate the plump, white leather front seats.
Of course, it’s no surprise. Mercedes has been building cars that travel silently for decades.
The EQA takes a fairly leisurely 8.9 seconds to reach the speed limit – making it a bit of a slouch compared to other similarly-sized, or similarly-priced, electric SUVs. But in truth it feels substantially quicker than those numbers would suggest and acceleration for overtaking is particularly impressive because of the instant arrival of power after planting the pedal.
Charging is a simple enough affair, with a fast-charge outlet taking the best part of a full charge in an hour. Trickle charging from a home wall socket can take up to eight hours. Many owners will choose to plug it in every other night, keeping it juiced-up for the daily commute.
And with its size, nimble handling and responsive performance, it’s a delight to drive even in that morning crawl.
Does this car answer all the questions about the electric future – or convince drivers it’s time to consider an EV?
For some it’s an absolute yes. Others will take longer to convince.
But what it does do, without doubt, is remove most of the reasons people have previously used not to buy an EV.
MERCEDES-BENZ EQA 250
* HOW BIG: It enjoys the same elevated driving position as the GLA SUV and will sit four in comfort, five at a pinch, with ample cargo space.
* HOW FAST: Its electric motor generates 140kW and 375Nm – meaning it’s not the fastest in its class. It’s nippy, though, and is effortless to drive.
* HOW THIRSTY: Forget about buying petrol (a good thing at today’s prices). The EQA can be recharged using AC or DC units, between 11kW and 100kW. And Benz will pay for a subscription to fast-charging networks for the first three years.
* HOW MUCH: At $76,800 it’s more expensive than a Nissan Leaf, Hyundai Kona Electric and Mazda MX-30, but is a class above those machines in comfort and build. Its real rival is the BMW i4, soon to hit Australian roads.