B Class Electric: Initial Reactions

Since all the electric car options I am considering are at least 18 months out, but my lease was up at the end of August, I needed to pick a replacement car that made sense, but also that didn’t commit me to another 3 year lease. As luck would have it, an off lease 2014 electric Mercedes B Class that was in great shape was listed on my dealer’s website. So, that’s what we did; swapping my fun roadster for an electric 5 seat family car. This is my initial reaction to both the B Class and owning an electric car.

Getting It Home

Challenge one was getting it home. We live 20 miles from the dealer, and they hadn’t plugged it in to charge it. In fact, I don’t think they even had a level 2 charger installed. They did plug it in while I was doing the paperwork, and that got us to 29 miles of estimated range. Turned out to be plenty, but it did leave us a little low once I got home (and we didn’t have our level 2 charger installed at that point either).

Even being fairly conservative in my driving to preserve charge, that first run home was a clue about how I would feel about this car.

Charging

Getting it charged proved to be the challenge of the first few days. The included level 1 charger, once I had rearranged the wiring of the refrigerator in our garage to free up the high current outlet, worked, but was pretty slow. On the Monday, I went in search of a public access charger. The free ones in both of the two places I knew about were occupied, but I found one relatively inexpensive one that was available using the ChargePoint network.

The next challenge was to get a faster level 2 charger fitted at home. After a bit of research, we ended up having an electrician add a NEMA 14-50 outlet in the garage, and connecting a JuiceBox Pro 40 to it. Since the wiring we had (fitted by the builder for an A/C compressor) is aluminium, we are limited to 32A continuous at 240V for now, but that is plenty to charge the B Class. For example, tonight’s charge added 20KWh to the battery (~70%) in under 3 hours. That’s our entire week of commute driving (and this week has had some extra evening runs for school events).

In addition to ChargePoint, who also sent me an NFC card to start & stop their chargers, I also signed up for Blink. I requested an NFC card there too, but have yet to receive one. At least around here, Blink chargers are less common than ChargePoint ones, but there are still enough to sign up (its free after all). The third network I’ve found around here is EVGo. They have a very different pricing model, and no free plan. In fact, most of their plans had monthly fees and 12 month contracts (with early termination fees). Only one plan was free of contract and monthly fees, but it still had a $5 setup fee. Give how few EVGo chargers I’ve seen, I’m passing on this one for now (they almost certainly have a guest rate too if I’m ever I dire need of a charge).

Efficiency

I’m still not familiar enough with mpKWh (miles per KWh) to know whether the averages we’re seeing are good or not. It does appear to be at the bottom end of the government table (along with the Teslas), and it clearly isn’t designed to be an ultra-efficient vehicle. It’s heavy for a start, and well appointed inside with lots of comfort features. But, the top performers in that table average up to 4 mpKWh. They rate the B Class as 2.5 mpKWh, but we have been seeing close to 3 around town and over that when cruising on the freeway into San Francisco, for example.

Either way, I wasn’t getting this to be ultra efficient. I wanted some of the comforts and safety that I’ve grown used to in my previous Mercedes cars. Not to mention having something that looked more like a regular car than a science project (BMW i3). I’m happy with those numbers, and the savings over driving the Q5 around town will still be huge.

Driving Experience

The part you’ve been waiting for: what is it like to drive? I was a little disappointed at giving up my beloved SLK (not being able to drive it often these days, combined with Mercedes dropping the silky smooth 3.5l V6 engine from the SLC that replaces it, made that bitter pill easier to swallow). I was resigned to driving something “average” at least until I could get my hands on one of the future electric vehicles I’ve been watching.

But I love it. Sure, I miss the open top aspect of the roadster, but driving the B Class is fun. Much more fun than I had anticipated. The response on the accelerator (can’t really call it the throttle or gas pedal now) is every bit as smooth as that gorgeous V6. And near instant. Regenerative braking feels just like engine braking from my days driving a manual car. Only the B Class has a clever radar based regenerative braking feature that automatically slows the car & puts charge back in the battery when the car in front slows.

Sure, it’s not going to win any races, but it puts a smile on my face driving it. I can’t wait to try some of these announced future electrics with their longer range & crazy 0-60 times.

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