By on September 16, 2010

For all its size and big talk about technical excellence, Daimler doesn’t seem to be doing much of its advanced powertrain R&D itself. News that the firm’s future hybrids will be Toyota-developed is joined by the revelation that Mercedes, not GM, is the mystery OEM which has hired Amp Electric Vehicles to develop an EV SUV prototype. AutoSpies reports that

It seems when Mercedes representatives  visited AMP a while back they were so impressed with the [Amp-electrified Chevy Equinox], that they quickly commissioned a ML-350 test mule for further evaluation.   Our exclusive spy photos reveal that a previously unregistered 2009 Pearl White ML-350 bearing manufacturer plates has arrived at AMP’s facility and is currently in the process of electrification by their engineers.  Upon completion this now all electric ML is slated to undergo testing later in the month.

Which is an interesting turn of events for Daimler’s EV partnership strategy. With a $50m stake in Tesla, one might assume that Daimler would turn to the California firm to electrify its ML. After all, Toyota also has also invested $50m in Tesla as well, and Tesla is electrifying a RAV-4 prototype for Toyota. On the other hand, Daimler has not had much luck with its Tesla-powered Smart EV, so perhaps the Germans are diversifying away from the hype-driven Silicon Valley startup. If so, that’s not a good sign for Tesla or Toyota. Watch this space…

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8 Comments on “Rumor Control: Mercedes (Not GM) Outsources Electric SUV Development. But What About Tesla?...”

  • avatar
    Da Coyote

    Having helped a friend do some restore/maintenance work on a Mercedes a few years back, I am somewhat underwhelmed with their engineering.  The basic engine block was impressive (showing almost no wear), but the bit parts, etc were downright GM like.  (Translation, they were trash.)  And the paint?  Feggetabowdit!  Sorry, the German taxi has never impressed me.

  • avatar

    daimlers phasing out Teslas EV tech in favor of Nissans EV technology. This was already talked about on other blogs.

    • 0 avatar

      Neither Tesla nor Nissan have anything special in the way of electric vehicle technology. Nor does anyone else.
      The basic concepts for electric vehicles have been around for a century. Many electric vehicles converted in home garages now travel the roads. I too am building an electric vehicle by gutting an old Ford Ranger and putting in an electric drive train. Nothing hard about it.
      Tesla’s Roadster is just a converted Lotus Elise. GM’s Volt is a converted Cruze. Nissan too totally closed its electric vehicle group at one time, and just reopened their effort five years ago. They are a Johnny come lately to the party. But their Leaf is a fine car. Its genes show that it came from a gasoline car.
      If it’s so easy, why haven’t carmakers made and sold these cars before now? Why are Volts and Leafs and the like just coming on the market? Because it’s easy to build a good, solid electric vehicle. But most buyers compare the electric vehicles to gasoline cars, and pick the latter.
      That’s the real difficulty. Electric vehicles have not found a mainstream market. Just fanatics on the fringes. My own opinion is that is unlikely to change.

    • 0 avatar

      I know why electric cars are so slow to arrive on the market – the battery is locked up. The NiMH lasts and Chevron controls it. Lithium works better but ages quickly. If we had the past 10-15 years of NiMH batteries on the market maturing we’d probably be going twice the distance on the same charge.
      Electrifying a car is the easy part. That’s all figured out. Dunno why Merc would electrify a big SUV. Why not something like an “A” class? Or a CR-V? Or a Jetta wagon. At least they don’t weigh the same as the moon.

    • 0 avatar

      Good points. But you say:
      I know why electric cars are so slow to arrive on the market – the battery is locked up. The NiMH lasts and Chevron controls it. Lithium works better but ages quickly. If we had the past 10-15 years of NiMH batteries on the market maturing we’d probably be going twice the distance on the same charge.

      Chevron has been out of the battery business for a year and a half. Even before then, Chevron did not keep the NiMH technology locked up. That was Ovshinsky and his Ovonics company. Toyota and Panasonic used NiMH in Japan, where the Ovshinsky patents were not as strong, but found it wanting.

      A couple of other companies — EEI and NiLar — found a way around the Ovshinsky patents and sold their own large-scale NiMH batteries for cars. No one bought. Nor did any carmakers beat down the door to buy NiMH batteries from Cobasys, the Ovonics and Chevron joint venture.

      Plenty of money has been poured down the battery hole. I don’t think there is any magic solution to the electricity storage problem. It’s a tough one.

  • avatar

    I know why this happened. It’s because Merc looked at the Equinox and thought it WAS an M-class. Simple mistake.

  • avatar

    There could be a number of strategy-related reasons why this contract was let, many of them having nothing to do with whether Daimler has the necessary in-house competence or resources to do the job(**), some of them probably may have to do with contracts and options and all that messy legal stuff, others may have to do with technical diversification, yet others may be to put pressure on Tesla(***), or to improve Toyota’s terms/conditions/prices for any hybrid tech Daimler may want to source from them. 

    ** Personally, based on some very dumb, inconsistent and arrogant statements (like “we are the best and we know it type talk) coming out of Daimler in the past regarding electric vehicles and batteries, I wondered if their management had a clue about what they needed to do in this area of technology.
    *** It could also just be a “cheap” way of doing a technical benchmark. 

  • avatar
    Greg Locock

    I can think of several reasons why they’d outsource this job

    1) No ego on the line. If it is a good idea they can all get behind it, if it is a bad idea it is easy to dismiss.

    2)Their engineers are too busy working on profitable programs

    3)They might pick up some ideas from outside

    Bear in mind that almost all OEMs outsource some development work, or showcars, or manufacturing. The further it is from a core activity the more likely it is to be outsourced.

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