The affordable, appealing and tragically flawed B250E
Mercedes-Benz picked up Tesla in 2009. Tesla was down and out, having had just $9 million in the bank at one point. Mercedes invested $50 million at a time when Tesla was really struggling. They broke up five years later (netting $780 million), but during their short liaison Mercedes and Tesla had a love child. The Bastard Electric, the B250E. They never talk about it, but it is real. It’s a lovely car, and also terrible.
I know because I see this car around. My little island is a dumping ground for used vehicles, but this was something new. As far as I knew, Mercedes didn’t make an electric car, but here was this thing with Electric Drive badges.
As far as Mercedes is concerned, I’m right. Mercedes-Benz says that the EQC is their first-ever electric car, and it’s just launching now. The B250E has been written out of their history, which is why I call it the Bastard Electric. The EQC the one true heir, the first-born electric from the house of Mercedez and Benz. But it’s not true.
The B250E is a real car and it is a real Mercedez-Benz. It didn’t sell much, under 4,000 units in the US, but people do own and drive this thing around. And it’s actually — one fuck-up aside — a great electric car. It has the body and interior of a Mercedez-Benz and the engine and battery of a Tesla. Honestly, a great combination. In their cussedness, however, Mercedes messed it all up.
To make this vehicle Mercedez literally just took a Tesla engine and stuck it in a regular B-Class. The exteriors, the interiors, they’re all exactly the same. The only changes were software (ie, you can use the paddle shifters for regenerative braking), but all the nibbles and nobs and plastic bits are the same. This is the problem.
To charge the Bastard you just open the fuel cap, as you would on a diesel or petrol B-Class. They’ve fit the charger port in exactly the same hole. This hole, however, is too small to fit a fast-charger. The battery supports fast charging, but the plastic hole does not. Because Mercedes refused to change anything exterior on this car, their first true electric does not support fast charging. For reference, every major electric car supports fast charging — the Leaf, the Volt, the Zoe. It’s almost like they didn’t want this thing to succeed.
Fast charging is literally this car’s Achilles heel. Mercedez dipped their child in Tesla-juice and held them by the fuel cap. It makes an otherwise excellent car unbuyable. It makes it a bastard.
The fact is that the B250E’s range of 100 miles (160 km) is low to start with. This is fine for city driving, but not fine for how people actually use cars. For this car to be a functional car, it has to be able to fast charge. But it doesn’t.
Because Mercedes couldn’t adjust a hole, no one can use this car for regional or national driving without stopping for 4–5 hours. Meanwhile, under the hood, the Tesla technology is capable of recharging in 30 minutes.
It’s actually maddening because this is an otherwise great car. And it’s cheap. As it’s washed up on my shores (where used cars come to die), you can get a fully-equipped model for under $30,000, which is a steal here (cars are easily double the normal price because of import controls).
This is honestly the car I’d like to buy — it’s roomy, rides high, has a Tesla engine, and everything else is Benz. But it’s all crippled by the fact that you can never take it out of town. Because it’s a bastard, and its father just didn’t care.