2006 Mercedes-Benz B-ClassEnlarge Photo
Back in March we first reported that German auto giant Daimler was partnering with Chinese automaker and battery specialist BYD to further develop electric vehicle technology and help accelerate their production. While few actual details of the partnership were revealed at the signing, we now have reports claiming Mercedes-Benz will supply its first-generation B-Class as a rolling chassis for BYD to install its electric drive systems in.
While Mercedes-Benz is expected to launch a second-generation and U.S.-bound B-Class next year, the older model will reportedly continue to be sold in the Chinese market by BYD but with electric drive. The vehicle will be sold under an as-yet undisclosed brand.
The sandwich floor design of the B-Class platform is ideal for storage of a large battery array; in fact this was the original purpose of the design but plans to electrify the vehicle were never carried forward. Drive will be sent to the front wheels via a compact yet powerful electric motor. The exterior of the B-Class should also receive a significant makeover.
Interestingly, Mercedes-Benz has already used its B-Class platform for a very different alternative fuel concept; the hydrogen fueled B-Class F-Cell. A small fleet of these fuel cell powered B-Class models will be built next year to start trials in both the U.S. and Europe.