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Mercedes-Benz concept EV offers rapid charging and Tesla-beating range

The Concept CLA Class is slated to go into production in late 2024.

Mercedes-Benz AG

Mercedes-Benz has unveiled its "close-to-production" Concept CLA Class EV, boasting of very long range and rapid charging via an 800-volt architecture. The four-door sedan is the first in the company's line of Mercedes-Benz Modular Architecture (MMA) EVs, which will include a shooting brake and a pair of SUVs. Though it was unveiled as a concept at Munich's IAA Mobility motor show, the CLA Class is slated to go into production as a real EV in late 2024.

MMA was conceived for the automaker's entry-level CLA Class vehicles as an all-new "electric first" design. The concept is almost exactly the same size as the company's current CLA sedan at 185 inches long and has a soft egg-like shape designed to move through the air as cleanly as possible (the hood is longer than other EVs, as Mercedes may offer it with ICE engines as well). It also has a number of concept car details (weird wheels, LED lighting, etc.) that likely won't make the final cut.

Mercedes-Benz concept EV offers Tesla-beating range and rapid charging
Mercedes-Benz concept EV offers Tesla-beating range and rapid charging (Mercedes-Benz AG)

The CLA Class is less about brute power than other Mercedes-Benz EVs (no performance figures were shared), focusing instead of efficiency and charging speeds. To that end, it uses an 800-volt architecture and a single rear-mounted 235HP motor borrowed from the Vision EQXX concept (with "close to zero percent" rare earth materials). It also has a new heat-pump to keep the batteries (and occupants) warm in the winter, as cold air can severely impact EV range, along with a two-speed transmission.

With all that, the Concept CLA Class can achieve 466 miles of WLPT range (around 400 miles in EPA terms) — a stellar efficiency of around 150 MPGe. It will also allow drivers to add around 200 miles of range in just 15 minutes. Mercedes didn't give the battery size, but it's likely under 100 kWh. Also aiding in that efficiency is a battery design with anodes containing silicon-oxide to improve energy density. The company will also offer a less efficient and reduced kWh lithium-iron phosphate option at a lower cost.

Mercedes-Benz concept EV offers Tesla-beating range and rapid charging
Mercedes-Benz concept EV offers Tesla-beating range and rapid charging (Mercedes-Benz AG)

The inside has a lot of concept-car fluff that likely won't see the light of day, including a water-cooled processor on the floor, silver-colored leather seats, an engraved moonroof and a dashboard-wide "Superscreen" with few physical controls. Still, the production version is likely to have some design touches in line with other Mercedes-Benz EQ electric models and a relatively luxe interior.

Another feature slated to appear in the electric CLA production model is Level 3 automated driving. It won't be available at launch, but the EV will have all the sensors required to enable the feature down the road via over-the-air (OTA) updates. More details are set to arrive in the coming months, like battery size, final range and charging numbers and, most importantly, the price. But if Mercedes can stick to what it said, the CLA could put up a good fight against Tesla's EVs.