Mercedes-Benz 190 E Elektro: experimented with the bases of their future electric cars

The boom in electric mobility is recent. Years have passed since the manufacturers showed us their first prototypes to finally commercialize the electric cars massively that lay the foundations of what the mobility of the future will be like, but all of them (or almost all) have flirted with alternative mobility during the last decades.

The Mercedes-Benz 190 E Elektro is living proof of those days when you flirted with electric cars before they really were a viable option.

1990 Mercedes-Benz 190 E Elektro: the forerunner of the EQ family

We can classify the Mercedes-Benz 190 E Elektro as the forerunner of the EQ family , the current range of electric cars from Mercedes-Benz. Based on the Mercedes-Benz 190 E generation W201 , the German manufacturer launched a breakthrough car for its mechanics at the Hanover Fair in 1990. But it did not come alone, because a second more advanced version was presented at the 1991 Geneva Motor Show.


Mercedes-Benz has begun its transition towards electrifications, creating the EQ range for a new line of electric vehicles (EVs) for Mercedes-Benz 190 E Elektro.

The guts of the German sedan were emptied and a complete electric propulsion system installed. According to the brand, this model was chosen because it was the one that best adapted to the conversion for mere morphological reasons: its large bodywork allowed electrification and its chassis was capable of digesting the encrypted weight increase of around 200 kg with respect to its combustion counterpart.

In the place of the combustion mechanics, sodium-nickel or sodium-sulphide battery packs were installed, high-capacity energy accumulators, superior to those of traditional lead batteries, with operating temperatures in both cases of around 300ºC .

In 1991 Mercedes-Benz introduced its second electric 190 E prototype as a car that “maintains the capacity of five occupants with the same space and safety measures.”

In the case of the car unveiled in 1991 in Geneva, Mercedes-Benz revealed an architecture with two permanent magnet electric motors, one on each wheel. The power of each one was 16 kW (22 CV) for a joint maximum power of 32 kW (44 CV) ; fairly stark figures. It might not be particularly powerful, but this electric car was already fitted with regenerative braking.


Mercedes-Benz 190 E Elektro at the 1991 Geneva Motor Show

But in reality there was not one, instead several units of these 190 E Elektro were manufactured. All of them were intended for experimentation and studying the different solutions implemented in each one, transferring them to the island of Rügen in the Baltic Sea for driving tests in real environments.

Testing lasted from 1992 to 1996 in an environment specially designed for experimentation with electric cars. An experimental laboratory protected by the German government in which about 60 cars and vans with electrical mechanics of various brands were involved.

During the experimentation phase the electric Mercedes-Benz traveled thousands of kilometers, with one of the units exceeding 100,000 km in a year through assignments to professional drivers for their day to day, including taxi drivers. A strenuous use for the purpose of checking how many cycles the battery pack could withstand and its deterioration.