“Taking off” in the EQC

The EQC (Stromverbrauch kombiniert: 20,8 kWh/100 km; CO2-Emissionen kombiniert: 0 g/km*) celebrated its debut in Stockholm — but for its driving presentation to media representatives, it chose the land of trolls, fjords, lakes, and mountains. It decided on Norway, a country that unites the forces of nature, mysticism, and sustainability in a unique combination. Norwegians have invented fabulous creatures in order to explain the forces of nature, and they have found many ways to live in harmony with nature instead of in conflict with it.

Actually, this can already be seen on the overland journey from Oslo to station one of our press test driving event, Hønefoss Airport, where the EQC demonstrates its abilities to around 400 international journalists for about two weeks. Wooden houses and office buildings are literally “planted” in the forest. The road to the place is hewn out of solid rock, with only one lane in each direction. It was probably impossible to carve a wider passage. Rainwater was running down the grayish-black cliff walls in rivulets — reminding us of what the Norwegians have an abundance: hydroelectric power.

EQC 400 4MATIC: Stromverbrauch kombiniert: 20,8/100 km; CO2-Emissionen kombiniert: 0 g/km*

That’s why electricity is cheaper in Norway than in other countries. In the second half of 2017, the average cost of a kilowatt-hour of electricity in Norway was 16 cents. During the same period in Germany, the average cost was 30 cents — almost twice as much as in Norway and a third more than the EU average. In Norway, the state subsidies for electric mobility and the population’s high level of support for sustainability have led to the country’s world leadership in the proportion of registered electric cars (including plug-in hybrids). In 2018 it was approximately 50 percent (compared to 8 percent in Sweden, 4.5 percent in China, and 2 percent in Germany).

The Norwegian government supports electric mobility with a broad range of measures. For example, the owners of electric and fuel-cell vehicles are exempted from import duties and the value-added tax, which in Norway amounts to a hefty 25 percent. Owners of electric vehicles don’t have to pay road tolls, and they can also use ferries and the bus lanes in some city centers free of charge.

EQC 400 4MATIC: Stromverbrauch kombiniert: 20,8 kWh/100 km; CO2-Emissionen kombiniert: 0 g/km*

In Oslo, for instance, owners of electric and fuel-cell cars can enter the city limits free of charge, whereas owners of vehicles with conventional drive systems have to pay about 6 euros during peak traffic periods. These subsidies will be gradually phased out between now and 2021. However, in the future electric vehicle users will pay at most only half of the normal road tolls and related fees. “We want to make sure it’s always cheaper to have a vehicle with an alternative drive system than a normal car,” said Norway’s Minister of Climate and Environment, Ola Elvestuen, in a report carried by the Associated Press news agency. Elvestuen also helped to establish Norway’s policy of permitting only locally emission-free vehicles to be sold in Norway starting in 2025.

That’s the end of our mental excursion around Norway’s policy of promoting electric mobility and at the same time the end of our real driving along rural roads, arriving at the airport of Hønefoss about one hour later.

Hønefoss — takeoff and return

This is where the journalists could take part at the Mercedes-Benz “Driving Dynamics.” Like the journalists, I was allowed to drive the EQC and really put the pedal to the metal — with Jürgen Zachold from Mercedes-Benz Driving Events sitting at my side. As soon as I entered the car, I realized that the EQC is not only a genuine Mercedes — it feels like one too. Its interior has the usual high quality we expect in a Mercedes, and the choice of colors and materials is both sporty and elegant. Even at first glance, the big MBUX display reveals that the EQC has high tech on board. In fact, in the EQC it’s a standard feature! I didn’t need lots of instructions from my co-driver. The EQC starts like a Mercedes, and the drive mode is activated in the usual manner.

But I was surprised by how wonderfully quiet it was to drive this car. Later on, I found out what made that possible when I looked at a cutaway model of the vehicle body at the Mercedes-Benz exhibition. But first, I continue to drive along the runway. “Wind northeast on runway zero three” — you don’t hear messages like this at the airport in Hønefoss, because there’s only one runway. And you certainly don’t hear people saying, “I can hear the engines even here,” because the only thing I hear besides a soft purr was my own “WOOOW!” as I accelerated to 100 km/h smoothly and silently in just a few seconds. It felt as though we were about to take off! Admittedly, the EQC can’t do that yet, but there’s a lot it can do right now. For example, it can save energy in extremely smart ways.

Energy-saving electric driving

Our guests had ample opportunities to try this out for themselves. In the recuperation mode D– the maximum energy-recovery driving mode — the haptic accelerator pedal helps the driver maintain the ideal speed at which the car achieves maximum energy recovery. That makes it possible to drive the car with just a single pedal, because in most situations the deceleration caused by energy recovery is sufficient and the brake pedal is not needed. On the other hand, in order to lose as little energy as possible when “sailing”, the “engine brake” is switched off. In other words, if the road conditions permit, the vehicle uses all the energy that’s available as a result of acceleration and its own weight to maintain momentum as long as possible while consuming as little electricity as possible.

As safe as every other Mercedes

In the next step, the journalists were familiarized with the EQC’s driving assistance system — Mercedes-Benz Intelligent Drive. They were welcomed by Jochen Haab and his crew, together with the team’s “silent colleagues”: “the child,” “the pedestrian,” and “the cyclist.” All three of them are remote-controlled road-user dummies who helped the team demonstrate the functions of the EQC’s driver assistance package. It feels a bit like on a “ghost train” when you’re driving the EQC on a safety demonstration course and you know something’s about to happen, but you don’t know exactly what it will be and when… We were sailing along the track at a speed of 50 km/h, when suddenly “the cyclist” pulled out into the roadway right ahead of us.

The Safety Team on site, left to right: Matthias Kaiser, Jochen Haab, Stefan Rauh, Katharina Kupferschmid, Thomas Waldbüßer und Els Hentschel

The EQC sounded a warning signal and carried out an emergency braking maneuver, thus preventing this critical situation from turning into an accident. After that, we drove toward the “standing pedestrian.” For demonstration purposes, the test engineer Els (Elisabeth) Hentschel decided to swerve around the pedestrian instead of slamming on the brakes. The Steering Assist visibly supported her steering motion as she swerved around the pedestrian and back into her lane.

EQC 400 4MATIC: Stromverbrauch kombiniert: 20,8 kWh/100 km; CO2-Emissionen kombiniert: 0 g/km*

Then we drove ahead at a good speed once again — until “the child” suddenly crossed the roadway. This is a situation that none of us wants to experience, but here in the EQC it ended well. The car sounded a warning signal, and because Els did not react, it independently carried out an emergency braking maneuver. “The child” was unharmed, and we both got off with a bad fright and the conviction that the EQC is a true Mercedes in terms of safety as well.

After we, along with that day’s group of journalists, had gotten through these so to say “critical situations” with completely safe, we moved on to see, hear, and wonder at the Mercedes-Benz EQC exhibition in the airport’s hangar.

Super quiet: decoupled and dampened…

The creators of the EQC were standing next to their exhibits, and they explained to us why the EQC is so special. Dr. Achim Bauer, for example, showed us all the things his team had done to reduce NVH — noise, vibration, and harshness (for example, the car’s reaction to rough road surfaces).

The cutaway model of the body gave us a view of the materials, which at first glance seemed to come from a home improvement store. There were mottled gray construction-site carpets, a foam-like material called viscoelastic polyurethane foam installed underneath the floor carpet, and something that looks like glass wool — but which certainly isn’t, according to Achim Bauer. He explained to us very clearly that it’s an acoustically highly effective material (PES fleece), that can be installed safely and easily.

Cutaway model of the body (Stromverbrauch kombiniert: 20,8 kWh/100 km; CO2-Emissionen kombiniert: 0 g/km*)

The cutaway model also revealed air vents that channel air out of the body but don’t let it get back in – and so insulate the sounds from the outside in. A feature that was not apparent at first glance was the electric engine’s double decoupling system for mounting the electric drive system on the vehicle body. The electric motor is mounted on elastomer bearings in a crash frame, and this frame is also connected to the floor plate via elastomer bearings. As a result, it’s “doubly decoupled.” That prevents mechanical noises from being transmitted. The same principle applies to the rear electric motor.

Pretty sleek

After the journalists and I had found out the secrets of the EQC’s quiet interior, we also learned why the model is so aerodynamic. The “German basic type” of the EQC has a Cd value (drag coefficient) of 0.29. At his exhibit, Maurice Girod, our on-site aerodynamics expert for the EQC, used a special augmented reality app to explain the airstreams around the EQC. Among other things, he showed us why a car with running boards is more aerodynamic than one without them. In combination with the optional running boards featuring an aluminum look and rubber studs as well as 19-inch aerodynamically optimized light-alloy wheels, the Cd value drops as far as 0.28.

Making the invisible visible: Using the special AR app, Maurice Girod demonstrated how the airstream flows around the EQC

Maurice also gave us a look into the future: Beginning with the fourth quarter of 2019, customers in (Western) Europe will be able to get an even lower Cd value of 0.27. How? By combining the AMG Line for the exterior with AMG-specific aerodynamically optimized 19-inch light-alloy wheels, the “famous” running boards featuring rubber studs, and two additional aerodynamic modifications to the vehicle’s underbody.

One way to improve aerodynamics is to close all the air inlets, wherever it’s possible and practical — for example, with the help of the standard-equipment air control system, which is located in the upper and lower air cooling system (Stromverbrauch kombiniert: 20,8 kWh/100 km; CO2-Emissionen kombiniert: 0 g/km*)

The exhibition also included stations showcasing the battery’s crash protection, the materials used in our batteries, and the navigation system that has been optimized for the EQC. The guests were very interested in all the exhibits, and even lifestyle bloggers were enthusiastic about the in-depth explanations of the thermal management system.

From the airfield to the road

Then we head to Vik for the recently opened high-power fast charging station of our joint venture IONITY. On the one hand, our guests were able to experience the full charging power of our EQC – from 10 to 80 percent in 40 minutes – live, and on the other hand “charge” themselves – with a delicious coffee and a Norwegian sausage.

The MMA team (Marc, Madeleine, Andre) from Vik and Dal in front of the hotel in Oslo in the evening (Stromverbrauch kombiniert: 20,8 kWh/100 km; CO2-Emissionen kombiniert: 0 g/km*)

Furthermore they had the chance to ask our experts questions on the many features of the new Mercedes me charge service and other MBUX features. My highlight: starting the charging process directly via the MBUX system in the vehicle – a comfortable feature especially in the rain. After the short charge-freeze, the journalists and I have a last EQ hub: a private villa with an exceptional view and a large garage, where the charging and after-sales colleagues demonstrate, among other things, the domestic charging with the Mercedes-Benz Wallbox. In addition, they provided detailed information about our new after-sales services.

Last stop: Oslo – Amerkalinjen

For this day’s group of journalists, the EQC test drive ended directly at Oslo’s central train station — and the Hotel Amerikalinjen. This is the city’s flagship hotel, which served for a long time as Norway’s “gateway to the world.” It was the former headquarters of the Norwegian shipping company America Line (Amerikalinjen in Norwegian), which operated passenger and merchant ships between Norway and the USA between 1910 and 1995.

EQC Chief Engineer Michael Kelz explained the technical and strategic background of the EQC to the journalists and bloggers

The next surprise was waiting for us in front of the hotel: A whole crowd of Oslo residents had gathered around the parked EQC vehicles. They told us they had already ordered the EQC unseen, and they were thrilled to finally see it live. It was a great opportunity for us to see what it’s like to have genuine faith in the brand with the star as well as a high degree of affinity with electric mobility. The last item on the agenda was the evening press conference at the hotel with Michael Kelz, the Chief Engineer of the EQC. At the conference, the journalists and bloggers could clear up open questions, either directly after the presentation or in one-to-one talks with all the experts.

After about two weeks of managing the program for journalists, the EQC crew was able to look back with satisfaction at a successful event and a fruitful dialogue with the media representatives.

* Stromverbrauch und Reichweite wurden auf der Grundlage der VO 692/2008/EG ermittelt. Stromverbrauch und Reichweite sind abhängig von der Fahrzeugkonfiguration. Weitere Informationen zum offiziellen Kraftstoffverbrauch und den offiziellen spezifischen CO2-Emissionen neuer Personenkraftwagen können dem „Leitfaden über den Kraftstoffverbrauch, die CO₂-Emissionen und den Stromverbrauch“ entnommen werden, der an allen Verkaufsstellen und bei der Deutschen Automobil Treuhand GmbH unter www.dat.de unentgeltlich erhältlich ist.

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She is editor for Group Research & Mercedes-Benz Cars Development