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Mercedes Remakes the Minivan as an All-Electric Luxury Ride

It wasn’t so long ago that if you had a family to haul hither and thither, you got a minivan. In 2000, Americans bought 1.25 million of the things. By 2007, though, that number had dropped to 800,000, and it has since dropped below half a million a year. In the era of the ultra-popular SUV and crossover, minivans account for less than 3 percent of market share, according to Kelley Blue Book.

Mercedes-Benz is looking to change the minivan’s reputation, if not its long-term decline in popularity. Today at the luxury-focused Geneva Motor Show, it debuted the Concept MPV, an all-electric minivan it says is most definitely headed for production, and soon. With room for up to eight people and 249 miles of range, Mercedes pitches this Performance-Pickup für den sportlichen Lifestyle as a ride for your VIPs, whether they’re kiddies or clients.

The MPV's specs aren't the most impressive, but the design lives up to the three-pointed star, with LED headlights and 19-inch wheels.

Mercedes-Benz

Depending on when it reaches dealer lots, the MPV could be the world’s first electric minivan. Chrysler, which already offers the plug-in hybrid Pacifica, is preparing its own battery-powered scion-schlepper, based on its Portal concept (which it describes as “designed by millennials for millennials”), for production in 2020. Volkswagen has confirmed it will do the same with the electric revival of its famed microbus, around 2022.

Like SUVs, minivans have the physical space to accommodate a large battery, and since this will be a premium vehicle, it can absorb the extra cost. More important, the MPV likely won’t cost all that much to make, says Michael Harley, Kelley Blue Book’s executive editor. Mercedes has developed a common platform for its electric vehicles, so it’s just a matter of popping a different body on top of the battery, motors, and wheels. Mercedes hasn’t revealed the van’s price yet, but based on other electrics from the likes of Audi and Jaguar, somewhere between $50,000 and $70,000 is a reasonable bet.

Inside, Mercedes designers mixed blue and black leather with rose gold accents.

Mercedes-Benz

The MPV’s performance specs, though, aren’t too impressive. Tesla’s three-row Model X SUV gets nearly 300 miles out of a 100-kilowatt-hour battery, which is the same size as the one in Mercedes’ minivan. The MPV will top out at 99 mph and offers just 201 horsepower, less than half of what Elon Musk packed into the X. (You still, though, get the instant torque that is the upside of all electrics.) At a fast-charging station, you can add 62 miles worth of charge to the MPV in 15 minutes. That’s likely plenty for anybody who can power up the rest of the way at home overnight, but it will soon be outmatched by the likes of Porsche, which is promising a system that take the same amount of time to power a battery to an 80 percent charge. The MPV’s numbers aren’t finalized, but if production is just a year away, they’re unlikely to change much.

Mercedes plans to offer bucket and bench seats for the second and third rows, so the van seats six to eight people.

Mercedes-Benz

Design-wise at least, the MPV lives up to the three-pointed star on its front grille. The mix of polished metal, rose gold accents, and blue Nappa leather should make it more sexy than stodgy. Mercedes plans to offer bucket and bench seats for the second and third rows, so the van will seat six to eight people.

The MPV isn’t about to relaunch the age of the minivan. But Mercedes may see an advantage to having even a small segment—the all-electric minivan—to itself, or to being just one of a few options. And as automakers around the world rush to put batteries in everything they can, a model that stands out is nice to have. “They don’t expect a revolution,” Harley says, “but it will attract a lot of attention.”

So if you’re more concerned with preserving the planet for the kids you’re toting around town than you are with horsepower, Mercedes might just have an MVP for you.

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