Mercedes-Benz is a good example of the prevailing carmaker philosophy at the moment. The storied German marque is working on releasing the first car of its all-electric EQ sub-brand, the EQC SUV, and I spoke to Jochen Hermann, head of “electromobility” at Mercedes’ parent company Daimler. Hermann says that Mercedes “didn’t want to take two steps at once,” meaning that the switch to electric drive and the need to think about how you would charge and use an electric vehicle is a big enough disruption already. “We kept the shape familiar,” says Hermann of the EQC, “but changed everything [else] such that it’s an EQ car.” In other words, the core experience remains as it was, and designers are once again constrained to making only skin-deep adjustments.
In order to save on manufacturing costs and complexity, Mercedes opted to put the EQC’s electric drive components into the space vacated by the combustion engine that the car doesn’t need. That allows the company to use its existing production lines to build the EQC faster. No need to rethink the entire vehicle architecture if you can just swap one drive system for another. Few people get fired for an overabundance of caution, after all.