• ARAB NEWS
Thomas Weber, Mercedes-Benz research and development chief, told German media recently that the company is working on an electric car with a range of up to 500 km that could compete with Tesla's Model S battery-powered vehicle.
"We are working on an intelligent concept for a highly attractive electric vehicle with a range of 400km-500km,"Weber said in an interview, adding that the car would come "soon."
Mercedes would use the flexible architecture with the electric drive concept, allowing it to use the new technology in more than one car, according to Weber.
It seems that all premium carmakers are now taking Tesla more seriously after its renowned success in key markets such as California.
Audi too has displayed the e-tron Quattro concept at last month's Frankfurt auto show which gave a taste of what is to come when it launches an all-electric SUV in 2018 to compete with the current Tesla Model X.
BMW is also reported to plan an i5 electric car based on the 5 series.
With European governments adopting tougher emission targets, Mercedes parent Daimler spent roughly half of its research and development budget of 5.68 billion euros ($6.4 billion) last year to develop low-emission technologies.
Mercedes is no stranger to electric vehicles.
It has had a variety of small fleets of battery electric or fuel cell electric cars on the road for years now, including versions of the Smart ForTwo, A class, B class and SLS AMG.
The company also established two fully-owned new subsidiaries for making both EV batteries and their lithium ion cells.
When Tesla was founded, unlike other German carmakers, Daimler took the company seriously and a partnered with Tesla. Initially Daimler took a 9.1 percent stake in 2009, received a seat on its board and employed its cells in its B-class Electric Drive, a compact MPV that had a range of around 200 kilometers.
But ties with the German carmaker weakened as Tesla grew, and Daimler was eventually removed from the board in June 2014. Afterwards, it divested the remaining four percent of its shares.
Together with Ford and Nissan, Daimler is investing in 10 hydrogen refueling stations as part of plans to bring mass-produced, competitively priced fuel cell vehicles to market starting 2017.
Nevertheless, Daimler believes that for the medium term the most successful commercial technology will not be battery electric or fuel cell cars, but plug-in hybrids. It announced late last year it would bring at least 10 new plug-in hybrids by 2017 starting with the S class and then the C class.
Electric cars, which use a simplistic motor and require no complex mechanical machinery such as transmissions, are lowering the barrier to entry in the automotive sector, making it possible for both startups like Tesla and established tech giants like Google and Apple to explore projects.
The latest announcement from Tesla is that total vehicle fleet worldwide of Model S all-electric saloon has driven over a billion miles.
In just three years since Model S hit the road, owners across the world have traveled the equivalent of over 4,000 trips to the moon, or almost 40,000 times around the Earth. By driving electric miles, Tesla owners have saved more than half a million tons of CO2.
Meanwhile, Tesla Motors said it would begin delivering its luxury electric crossover, Model X, to customers in the US by end of September 2015. Deliveries would start with those who have already reserved the SUV.
Model X, eagerly awaited since it was announced in early 2012, has launched with a premium-priced special version called the Signature series that cost between $132,000 and $144,000, a Tesla spokeswoman said.
CEO Elon Musk tweeted that the first cars have been handed over Sept. 29 at the company's factory in Fremont, California
Tesla has been spending heavily ahead of the launch of the Model X, the second addition to its lineup after the Model S sedan, even as it develops a cheaper vehicle starting at $35,000, the Model 3.
Musk tweeted that the Model 3 would begin production in "about two years." The limited-edition Signature series cars, which will be available in a unique red color not offered for the standard Model X, include such features as self-parking and enhanced sound systems.
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