Classical rallies are meanwhile my thing. Since then with me Matthias Kahle drove from Berlin to Hamburg in the Eastern Bloc Porsche, I take this number really seriously. As a passenger, however, you're always the idiot. You have to say where to go and in case of doubt you have announced wrongly and stopped wrongly at the special stages, or entered the times incorrectly in the electronic timing app. That's what happened to me. Two times. At the side of a six-time rally champion. You can say that my ego did not develop positively under it. But now, in this place, everything is different. It does not go over flat land, it goes over mountains and passes and in the rear no four-cylinder gasoline engine begs loudly for attention and you are not roasted free of air conditioning. This time: electric. With air conditioning and sometimes as a driver, sometimes as a passenger.
2 days on the road in the Montafon: E-Silvretta 2016
An electric B-Class is waiting for me and my co-driver. A B250e. Recently here in the test, the two days of the E-Silvretta will not be about gap dimensions and trunk volume, but about the fun of electric driving. And accuracy. Naturally. Because regardless of whether it's a classic or electric rally, it's not about top speed and lap times, just like on public roads, it's about “precision” in the special stages.
My co-driver is Eva Laun, a reporter for the SWR (Listen to radio post here) and it is their first “rally”. Horror scenarios play out in my head. I had improved from rally to rally so far. A top 3 result? Yes, please. That may already be in there. Especially since the preparations of the Mercedes team are as usual: uniquely good. For every rally vehicle and of them, Mercedes brought just under a dozen. As a premium partner of the Silvretta, the Stuttgart-based company does not let itself be spoiled. On the other hand, the diesel killers from Wolfsburg were missing and Ingolstadt was once more energetic when it came to electromobility. Mercedes-Benz loaded the iPads once with the appropriate rally timekeeping app. Clever. And practical. And the hard-working helpers with the star in their hearts have even already entered the special stages. So there is only one control left. Double. I no longer want to give myself the shame of the typo.
I would like to turn the first test kilometers the day before. Check the light barriers and the pressure hose timelines. Because that's the point. To be precise at the most precise level required by the organizer for a WP. Every hundredth of a second above or below: One penalty point.
But planning at Mercedes-Benz is different. We are talking about electrical engineering. About the future. Sometimes about the past and the bet you made at Mercedes-Benz. The two alternatives: battery or fuel cell. As in spite of this, Mercedes-Benz also brought the hydrogen variant of the B-Class with it. My - pardon - Meanwhile, our B250e happily waits for electrons sucking in the underground garage.
The “slightly different” rally vehicle: Mercedes-Benz B 250e
132 kW is our rally vehicle strong, He hurries on, humming softly. And he also has air conditioning. Sunny days in the Montafon are so much better. The test had mastered the B-Class ED here on my-auto-blog with flying colors. E-mobility, e-clear. For me, the question of whether or not, is no longer a question. Of course, we drive more and more electrically in the future. You can see that at Mercedes-Benz too. Jürgen Schenk leads the e-car development at the Stuttgart company (Director e-Drive Integration) and when he talks about e-cars, one really only wonders why we still talk about a niche here.
Vehicles like our B-Class 250e are still in the minority. Only 0.4% of vehicles registered in Germany are electric. But this will change. Not only Jürgen Schenk is sure of that. By the end of the year, he sees electromobility coming of age. Until 2038, all electric vehicles should be able to be charged purely via renewable energies. Already 2020 will have more charging points than petrol stations. So the happy news for e-car fans. The fast charging standard CCS will prevail, also worldwide. And 350 kW superchargers at highway junctions will be completely normal.
Our B-Class doesn’t care. It is charged via a Type 2 plug with a maximum of 11 kW and the batteries from TESLA are also sufficient “only for 130 to 190 km” in everyday life. At all. This B-Class Ex-ED, now called the B250e, is actually a small Tesla. A lot of know-how of the Californians is in the compact Stuttgart. You don't see any of it. But feel it.
From the first kilometer onwards, our “B-ED” demonstrates that electric cars are not only at home in the city. Day 2 is impressive, as it climbs the Faschinajoch to 1.487 meters. Our electric B-Class sprints out of every tight bend with vehemence thanks to the immediately applied power of the electric motor. The first kilometers from the start it went down the valley, the range display grew to over 250 kilometers. The entire rally showed that you can rely on this display. 135 kilometers were on the program on rally day 2, including the almost 1.500 meters to the Faschinajoch. At the finish of the rally another 53 kilometers would have been feasible - despite the strenuous mountain stages through Vorarlberg, almost 200 kilometers in total would have been feasible. It is precisely the winding country road in the Alps on which the electric drive really scores. No sorting of gears, no torque holes to overcome, no turbo-charger breaks - especially in the S-mode of the B-Class 250e there is always thrust. That makes driving a pleasure. An almost silent pleasure.
More range? The B-Class has a “cheat mode”. A button that can be used to change the battery's charging stroke. This increases the usable capacity and extends the range in the direction of 200 kilometers. But the e-foot also saves. Slow down early, let it roll long distances. Gentle recuperation, gentle on the brakes. If you drive an electric car with foresight, you save twice. On the one hand fuel, on the other hand wear material. Thanks to recuperation, the brakes are subjected to significantly less stress.
Currently, the capacity of e-vehicles is still manageable, but Mercedes-Benz sees 60 kWh batteries as the basis for e-mobility in the near future. The goal is load times under 5 minutes for 100 km range. This is no distant future music. This is current research.
The Montafon is a 39 km long valley in Vorarlberg and a wonderful starting point for the E-Silvretta Rally. If the first day mainly went south, to the Silvretta High Alpine Road, but - for whatever reason - was left out, day two was geared towards the destination in Bregenz.
In addition to the special stages, the range of the vehicles was always an issue. In addition to the plug-in hybrid fleet of S and E classes, Mercedes-Benz also brought last year's winner SLS electric drive to the 2016 edition. This electric sports car could not win this year. A BMW i3 with auto, motor und sport editor Alexander Bloch at the wheel took the win. Auto, motor und sport was also the organizer of the Silvretta Rally 2016. For both the Classic and the e-cars. While our B-Class electric drive turned this rally into a comfort race, one compares the conditions of the modern compact with the harsh manners of classic automobiles, but one or the other asked oneself - whether the other manufacturers have not understood what they are Clock has struck?
With BMW and Mercedes-Benz, only two manufacturers were on site for this performance demonstration of e-mobility. We are facing a change of times. 1.1 billion vehicles around the world are waiting for a leap in efficiency. At Mercedes-Benz, a factor of 3 is used when comparing the efficiency of the “combustion engine” with the efficiency of the electric vehicle. Nor can it be confirmed that there is an energy supply problem. The massive expansion of energy generation from renewable sources also plays a role here.
In the end, placements in such a rally are just an accessory. It's about “being there”. To experience a noiseless source of power in an environment of absolute calm. Over the mountains, between cows and 9th place is okay too. Above all, this tour showed one thing: Those who still struggle with e-mobility today have not understood anything.