Saturday 19 October 2019

How Merc's electric EQC shows why the force must be with us

First Drive: Mercedes EQC electric car

Mercedes EQC
Mercedes EQC
Mercedes
The interior of the Mercedes EQC
Mercedes

I couldn't help asking myself if I was looking at the Ireland of tomorrow. There, in a huge section of Oslo's airport, stood electric vehicle after electric vehicle, each being charged individually.

Not a diesel or petrol car in sight. Can you see it at Dublin Airport right now? No. But it surely will happen. Like our general charging infrastructure, it has to happen.

Out in the Oslo streets electric cars abounded. On the forecourts, charging points reassured us about range. Everywhere we looked - be it trains, trams or bicycles - the force, electricity, was with us.

Oslo was a graphic example for me on how we approach doing things properly for the electric era.

I know they have hydro-electric power ubiquitously on tap; I know they have oil money pouring in too. But we Irish can't use lack of resources as excuses for not doing the right thing. Oslo works. It's not perfect but we need to get Ireland doing as well as soon as we can.

It was against that backdrop that we took to the Norwegian roads, charging stations, special performance/safety demonstrations on an airstrip at the wheel of the first electric car from Mercedes, the EQC mid-size crossover/SUV.

I brought you a modicum of detail, putative price and set-up last week. Now, I'd like to expand a bit on that and convey what it felt like to drive.

As you know, it will debut in Ireland effectively in October, with a starting price around €90,000. That's before €10,000 is knocked off by VRT rebate and SEAI grant. Say €80,000.

There will be a preview model in July but sales/deliveries start officially from October with the EQC 400 4MATIC version.

You also probably know that rival EVs include the Jaguar I-Pace, Audi e-tron, BMW iX3 and Tesla X.

Mercedes is claiming it can cover more than 450km on one charge (realistically probably nearer to 400km - and lower again in winter).

With an electric motor for each axle (combined output of 402hp, 765Nm torque), the EQC also benefited from all-wheel-drive (AWD).

The 384-cell lithium-ion battery pack lies under the floor between the two axles to reduce cabin intrusion.

The standard 402bhp setup (battery power can be expanded) let me zip to 100kmh in 5.1 seconds (on the air strip - great feeling). Charging can, they say, boost power levels from 10pc to 80pc in 40 minutes. We charged up a lot in under 20 minutes at an IONITY charger. It's simple; I managed it without difficulty. AC charging at home would take a lot longer, of course; Mercedes Wallbox charging is three times quicker.

One fascinating exercise we undertook on the road was the level of regenerative energy we got by judicious use of two paddles on the steering wheel column. It was possible for long stretches to drive without touching the brakes; upping the regeneration levels with the paddles slowed the car.

It's a skill I easily and quickly acquired. After hilly climbs and twisty roads, strategic use of the system added substantially to previously dipping range forecasts.

The car itself is pleasant, strong-grilled, if not madly mould-breaking to look at.

In contrast, the cabin, roomy, was fabulous. Not just in terms of comfort, connectivity, interactive technology, seating, instrumentation and so on, but its all-round design, especially the spread and splendour of the dash, appealed.

Central focus was the double 10.25in instrument cluster and media display. You might remember me raving about it in the A-Class.

The MBUX multimedia system lets you ask for radio, destination etc as well as revealing the level of remaining range etc. You can, via MBUX or the 'Mercedes Me' app, pre-set the car's temperature for winter and summer conditions.

Road tax will be €120; wheel sizes range from 19in to 21in. And you can choose from several driving modes.

We took pictures; we talked and we drove in bus lanes (EVs are allowed).

Then one wise man among us summed up the Mercedes-in-Oslo experience better than all the discussion around the EQC. In 10 years time, he said, we will look back at this time as being the first steps into a different world.

I just hope we in Ireland can keep pace with those first steps. Because this is happening quickly for the long run; it's a sort of marathon sprint. We already have catching up to do.

Indo Motoring

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