EQC, which will take on the Audi e-tron, Jaguar I-Pace and BMW iX3, is now only months away

EQC, which will take on the Audi e-tron, Jaguar I-Pace and BMW iX3, is now only months away

A series which examines the existing and next models for Daimler's passenger vehicle divisions now concludes with a look at what's coming for the EQ sub-brand. This follows recent features on Denza, smart, Mercedes-Maybach, Mercedes-Benz cars, Mercedes-Benz SUVs and Mercedes-AMG models.

What exactly is EQ anyway?

What Daimler executives termed "Generation EQ" when revealing an EV concept at the 2016 Paris motor show is to be "the forerunner of Mercedes-Benz's new product brand for electric mobility, EQ".

EQ encompasses many things and so far it has been applied to two Daimler makes, not just Mercedes-Benz. Earlier this year, the smart fortwo electric drive and forfour electric drive were renamed smart EQ fortwo and EQ forfour.

The company expanded upon what it sees EQ as being in a September 2017 media statement:

EQ offers a comprehensive electric mobility ecosystem of products, services, technologies and innovations. The spectrum ranges from electric vehicles and wallboxes to charging services and home energy storage units. The name EQ stands for "Electric Intelligence" and is derived from the Mercedes-Benz brand values of "Emotion and Intelligence". The new brand encompasses all key aspects for customer-focused electric mobility and extends beyond the vehicle itself. Future models will embody the essentials of state-of-the-art electric mobility: the fusion of emotively appealing and intelligent design, exceptional driving pleasure, high everyday practicality and maximum safety, a hallmark of every vehicle from the inventor of the automobile.

There will eventually be a range of three-letter Mercedes-Benz electric models but already, as well as the smarts, many existing models are coming in for the EQ treatment. One example is the CLS 450 4MATIC. This has an integrated starter-generator which Mercedes-Benz terms 'EQ Boost'. The ISG gives the car more power under acceleration whilst also allowing emissions-free driving under certain conditions. Daimler appears to be avoiding the term Mild Hybrid, instead using EQ for all kinds of electrification in its cars.

Another car with an EQ Boost system is the Mercedes-AMG GT 53 4MATIC+. This has a 320kW (435PS) & 520Nm 2,999cc turbocharged in-line six-cylinder petrol engine as well as a 16kW (22PS) & 250Nm starter-alternator. Daimler is therefore promoting the name as being a catch-all from the smallest smart to the fastest and most powerful AMG models.

Bespoke EQ platform and batteries

Daimler has developed EVA, an adaptation of MRA (a RWD/AWD architecture), as the basis for multiple future EVs. This platform is scalable in every respect and usable across all models: the wheelbase and track width as well as all other system components, especially the batteries, are variable.

Electric Vehicle Architecture is a multi-material mix of steel, aluminium and carbon fibre. It is suitable "for SUVs, saloons, coupés, cabriolets and other model series", Daimler has told the media. The company has also developed its own battery packs and these are already and will continue to be sourced from the firm's own factories in Germany, China, the USA and elsewhere.

Four-model line-up

The plug-in hybrid and fully electric model range of the EQ brand should consist of four models by the early 2020s: EQA, EQC, EQD and EQS. Some of these will be cars while others will be crossovers or SUVs. The first model, the EQC, will go into production at an existing factory in Bremen next year. Daimler is thought to be holding back on announcing firm plans for multiple other fully electric models as it waits to see how well the first vehicles sell.

We are now less than a month away from seeing what the EQC looks like. There had been confusion over the name of this plug-in crossover, which will be sized between the GLC-Class and GLE-Class. Originally expected to be called Mercedes-Benz EQ GLD-Class, the EQC will be 4.7m long and a rival for the Jaguar I-Pace, BMW iX3 and Audi e-tron. Some might also believe that the Tesla Model X is one other competitor but at 5,052mm long and 2m wide, the big crossover belongs to the next size class up.

Daimler won't build the EQC solely in Germany: it also intends to manufacture one or more models from its Mercedes-Benz EQ range in China. The C will be the first of these and built by the Beijing Benz joint venture in the country's capital.

Details of the EQ range's powertrains are not yet known but a two-motor system with all-wheel drive is expected. A range of 500km would be the minimum requirement if this and other future models are to be competitive.

The EQC will be revealed to the media at an event in Stockholm on 4 September. Series production will not commence until April next year.

Six factories for EQ models

A couple of sizes down from the C will be the EQA. This was the name of an all-wheel drive concept which had its world debut at the Frankfurt IAA in September 2017. The prototype had one motor on the front axle and another for the rear wheels. Total power was said to be "up to 200kW thanks to scalable battery components" and the range could be as much as 400km.

The series production model should be delivered to dealerships worldwide during 2020. The lead plant is in France: Daimler is spending half a billion euro at the smartville factory, the company announced in May. Preparations for the new model started shortly after the announcement. Some of the money will go towards a new body shop and expanded assembly facilities.

This will be the first Mercedes to be manufactured in France and also the first one for a plant which has hitherto only manufactured smart models such as the current fortwo.

In addition to smartville, the production network of the new generation of compact cars includes the plant in Kecskemét, the BBAC production site in Beijing and the COMPAS plant in Aguascalientes as well as the Finnish manufacturing service provider Valmet Automotive.

"With the production of a compact electric car in Hambach, we are adding further capacities for our electric initiative at six locations on three continents. The smart plant in Hambach will become a part of our global compact car production network with the lead plant Rastatt, Germany", Markus Schäfer, Member of the Divisional Board of Management of Mercedes-Benz Cars, Production and Supply Chain stated in May.

Of the six factories, four are in Europe: Bremen (Germany), Hambach (France), Kecskemét (Hungary) and Uusikaupunki (Finland). The other two are Beijing (China) and Aguascalientes (Mexico).

Build it and (perhaps) they will come

The EQA is expected to be a C segment five-door hatchback. Demand for electric cars of this size such as the Leaf and e-Golf may be rising in certain countries but it remains low, Europe-wide. The same applies in North America and China (PHEVs fare better in the PRC, though). In Central and South America, as well as Africa, Russia, the Middle East and Australasia, demand for battery electric cars of this size is yet to rise to anything above rounding error levels. US sales of the Nissan Leaf appear to be stuck at just above the 1,000 cars a month level, and have in fact fallen of late, Nissan's own data show. Volkswagen of America, meanwhile, sold 18 units of the rival e-Golf last month.

BMW has been selling a similarly sized German premium brand car for more than five years now. Demand for the i3 has been less than overwhelming. Tesla, which has spent the last 15 years producing electric cars, has yet to turn a profit, although its CEO Elon Musk recently stated "We believe we can be sustainably profitable from Q3 onwards". Between 1 April and 30 June, the electric car maker built 53,339 vehicles and delivered 40,768, all of them premium-priced. In so doing, Tesla set a second record for itself: a US$717.5m loss, the worst yet for any quarter.

Others might be struggling to make money from EVs but that is not turning Daimler off. Like Tesla, it believes that there could be money to be made at some point in the future. So it is that a large Mercedes EQ electric sedan is under development, Dieter Zetsche announcing this to journalists in April. Speaking at the media preview of the third generation A-Class, Daimler's CEO hinted that the car would be around the same size as the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. It will be a rival to the Tesla Model S or the successor for that big hatchback.

Whether the EQS will be a sedan or a hatchback is not yet known. The prototypes which have been photographed in recent weeks have a low roof and a large black cover hiding the back end, suggesting that the model could even be a shooting brake.

The fourth of an initial four models is tentatively named EQD. This should be a smaller sedan or hatchback than the EQS, sized between the C- and E-Class sedans so about 4.8m long. Production is likely to be in Germany (Bremen or Sindelfingen) but there could also be build in Beijing. The EQD would be chasing the Tesla Model 3 and next year's electric BMW 3 Series sedan.

Daimler will probably make this car stand out from existing vehicles in its size segment by making it especially aerodynamic. That might have been what the IAA concept from the 2015 Frankfurt motor show was hinting at.

Production should start in 2020, with a facelift due in 2024 and a replacement three years after that.

Future model plan reports for other manufacturers can be viewed in the OEM product strategy summaries section of just-auto.com.

Future product program intelligence

More detail on the past, current and forthcoming models for all of Daimler AG's passenger vehicle brands can be found in PLDB, the future vehicles database which is part of QUBE.

The next manufacturer to be featured in just-auto's future vehicles series will be McLaren Automotive.