Tuner Brabus Turns Electric Wheels towards Fuel Efficiency in Two Mercedes E-Class Concepts

By Joel Arellano | September 12, 2011
The next evolution of electric cars may not come from major automakers but, oddly enough, from the tuner community. Tuners in the automotive community modify vehicles for certain specific purposes, usually for more performance with additional horsepower, racecar-inspired handling, and of course appearance. Brabus is a well-known German tuning firm that focuses primarily on Mercedes-Benz. At this year's Frankfurt Motor Show, it surprised the jaded journalists present with the introduction of two fuel-efficient concept cars. We say "surprise" because Brabus is most well-known for adding horsepower to everything from already-powerful Mercedes-AMG supercars to the diminutive Smart. But under the Brabus Zero Emission business division (surprise!), the tuning company concentrated on until recently, the long-neglected fuel efficiency side of vehicles.
Brabus based both of its fuel-efficient concepts on the Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedan. For the Brabus Hybrid concept, the tuning company took a diesel-powered Mercedes E 220 CDI BlueEfficiency, mounting two electric motors in the rear wheels and adding the lithium-ion battery pack under the sedan. The system could propel the concept up to 75 miles strictly on battery power alone, or up to 50 miles in the more aggressive Sport mode before the diesel engine kicks in. The batteries get recharged through regenerative braking or through the car's plug-in onboard charger. According to Brabus, the Brabus Hybrid batteries could be fully charged within 30 minutes when connected to a 380 volt outlet, a little over 5 1/2 hours using a more common 220 volt AC outlet. Theoretically, drivers whose daily range consisted less than 75 miles round trip would rarely need to fill up on fuel. Brabus did not provide the Hybrid's city/highway range at the time of this post. The two wheel motors and battery system add more than 562 pounds to the Mercedes E 220. Yet the Brabus Hybrid gains an additional 30 horsepower and 37 lb-ft of low-end pulling power, or torque. This means the concept, using both diesel and electric motors (ala hybrid mode), is actually faster than its standard counter-part which can go from zero to 60 mph in 8.7 seconds. The Brabus Hybrid zips from zero to 62 mph in less than 7.5 seconds, more than a full second faster. Brabus again uses wheel-mounted electric motors for its second concept, the Brabus High Performance 4WD Full Electric sedan. This time, all four wheels are fitted with motors provided by Protean Electric UK, which also provides the wheel-mounted electric motors for the Brabus Hybrid concept. A computer coordinates all four wheel motors to work in sync making the Brabus High Performance 4WD Full Electric sedan an all-wheel drive vehicle. Unlike the Brabus Hybrid, the Brabus High Performance 4WD Full Electric concept is, as its name suggests, a full-electric vehicle with the wheel-mounted electric motors providing power. Thus, the engine carriage, driveshaft tunnel, fuel tank, and even spacing for the spare tire are instead occupied by lithium-ion batteries. Brabus strategically places additional batteries within the Mercedes E 200 chassis to balance weight distribution for a smooth, solid ride. So how far can the Brabus High Performance 4WD Full Electric concept travel on a charge? According to Brabus, the sedan has an astonishing range of 217 miles between charges while in Eco mode, one of the longest of any electric vehicle. Average range during normal (European) driving is estimated to be 150 miles, still a respectable distance especially when you take into account the sedan's weight (4,828 pounds). Takeoff time from zero to 62 mph is an amazing 5.0 seconds. Brabus also redesigned the concepts' front grills, bumpers, and headlights to be more aerodynamic while enhancing the vehicles' sporty appearance with carefully placed aluminum and carbon-fiber inserts. The concepts' interiors also get sporty makeovers like aluminum pedals and badges. Automotive.com's take: There are currently no plans to bring either concept to production. However, the wheel-mounted electric motors, which have been seen on other vehicles like Mitsubishi's electric vehicles offerings, offer a glimpse into a more fuel-efficient future. Source: Mercedes-Benz/Brabus