Grille - 2013 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT 2-door Coupe SLS AMG GTEnlarge Photo
It's been clear for a couple of years now that the German luxury makers feel they need competitive responses to the startling emergence of electric-car maker Tesla Motors.
One by one, the concept vehicles--and production plans--have appeared, first the Audi e-Tron Quattro Concept and most recently the Porsche Mission E.
Mercedes-Benz has been more reticent, but now reports of its plans to compete with those vehicles have emerged as well.
DON'T MISS: Mercedes Confirms All-Electric Luxury Car To Fight Tesla 'Very Soon' (Sep 2015)
According to the German magazine Autobild, Mercedes will launch a battery-electric version of its GLC compact crossover utility at the end of 2018, under the model name 'ELC'.
What will presumably be the 2019 Mercedes-Benz ELC electric SUV will share only a roof and windows with the new GLC, which recently launched for the 2016 model year to replace the previous GLK.
The rest of the ELC's body will be heavily modified, to reduce aerodynamic drag to an absolute minimum for longer range.
2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC-ClassEnlarge Photo
It will have a flat battery pack under the floor, Autobild says, at least two motors (one per axle), up to 400 kilowatts (540 horsepower) of output, and both plug-in and inductive charging.
The ELC's range on the European test cycle is cited as at least 400 km (250 miles), but that's likely to be closer to 200 miles on the U.S. EPA test.
The report suggests that in line with European pricing for the B250e (nee B-Class Electric Drive) versus its diesel counterpart, the ELC's price could be as low as 50,000 euros ($54,000 at current exchange rates).
That's because the price is, as the magazine notes, a "political issue"--Mercedes must sell enough battery-electric vehicles to keep it within tightening European Union and U.S. limits on carbon emissions.
Mercedes executive Axel Heix told Green Car Reports two weeks ago that his company was capable of producing "more than competitive" electric cars, when the business case made sense.
He suggested that such cars would be subsidized by more profitable products--the GLS large luxury seven-seat SUV, for instance--but that the company wouldn't build cars that actually lost money.
Audi e-tron quattro concept, 2015 Frankfurt Auto ShowEnlarge Photo
While he estimated that profitability could be two or three generations hence, the interview didn't delve into the question of what a luxury-car company has to do to stay in compliance with those carbon-emission and fuel-economy rules.
Between the 100,000 buyers who will soon be driving Tesla Model S cars and those tightening regulations, it may be that the business case makes sense by the end of this decade.
MORE: How Audi, BMW & Mercedes Plan To Compete With Tesla--And Why (Oct 2014)
German makers generally move in lockstep; when one introduces a new type of vehicle or pioneers a new segment, the rest follow. (Witness the Audi and Mercedes vehicles that mimic the X6 and X4 "sport activity coupes" pioneered by BMW.)
Two different segments seem to be forming for luxury battery-electric vehicles. The first includes the Tesla Model S and, in due course, the Porsche Mission E.
Porsche Mission E concept electric carEnlarge Photo
Then there's the burgeoning SUV or crossover segment, which the Tesla Model X is just pioneering (assuming its delayed production ramp-up proceeds smoothly).
The Model X will be followed in due course by the Audi e-tron quattro (sometimes called the Q6), an electric version of the Jaguar F-Pace, and then the Mercedes ELC.