Mercedes-Benz A-Class E-Cell production starts at Rastatt plant

Article by Christian Andrei, on September 17, 2010

As you may know already, earlier this week Mercedes-Benz introduced the A-Class E-Cell, a new electric vehicle which will be produced in a limited edition of just 500 units. As a result, Mercedes-Benz started production of this car at the Rastatt site, Germany. If you don’t know it already, we will tell you that the car is powered by an electric motor capable to deliver 70 KW (95 hp) and an impressive 290 Nm of torque.

It has a total range of more than 200 km (NEDC) or 124 miles. Comparing it to the standard version, the A-Class E-Cell received only minor adjustments such as new consoles for fixing the lithium-ion batteries. Only the assembly and commissioning of the innovative lithium-ion batteries is made at a separate station.

Integrating the A-Class E-CELL in the production phase was never a complicated exercise. During production, workers only needed to fix the lithium-ion batteries to the A-Class body using consoles. The batteries are produced at a different station, and then taken to the A-class production line.

The batteries are then integrated into the A-class after assembly procedures have been completed in the standard production line. The E-CELL lithium ion batteries also undergo rigorous dynamometer testing and other processes before they are included in the assembly of the A-class.

As a result, there is no need to make major changes to the exteriors of the A-class just to accommodate the E-CELL Li-Ion batteries. All of these production processes are undertaken by highly trained staff at the Mercedes-Benz manufacturing facility at the Rastatt plant.

Before they are deployed to the production line, Mercedes-Benz invests time and money in giving them the proper training to work with the technology, says A-Class E-CELL project manager Uwe Reich.

The training is very detailed, with members of the production staff going through various training modules to ensure that they have expert knowledge on the high-voltage systems that they are working on.

Mercedes-Benz even invested in establishing a central training production line in Rastatt. This is an added layer of training to further ensure the quality and familiarity in the staff members with the tasks and responsibilities that they are going to be given in the future.

Through the training line, staff can test the knowledge they received in the training without jeopardizing actual production. Rastatt continues to be and will remain an important facility for Daimler AG. The company had already bookmarked an investment of around €600 million in expanding the facility.

Upgrades are also due for the Rastatt plant paint shop. This is thanks to an additional €10 million investment that’s exclusively for improving the existing shop. These investments are intended to make the plant sustainable in the long-term, eliminating the need to acquire new production facilities.

Press Release

Production start Mercedes-Benz A-Class E-CELL at Rastatt plant

Following the start of production of the smart fortwo electric drive and the B-Class F-CELL by the end of 2009, the company is now gearing up the production of its third electric passenger car: the Mercedes-Benz A‑Class E-CELL. With the electrified A-Class, Daimler aims to gain experience concerning the integration of battery-electric drives into four-seated vehicles and the use by customers in order to consistently apply this technology to other models in the future. A total of 500 locally emission-free vehicles based on the current A-Class will be manufactured at the Rastatt site. Thanks to its maturity in life cycle and to its conceptual construction, the current A-Class model is the ideal basis for an all-electric vehicle for the city, urban and interurban areas. The vehicles will be leased with a full-service rent model to selected customers in various European countries, including Germany, France and the Netherlands.

Based on the current A-Class, the family five-seater with battery-electric drive system is suitable for daily use and offers a spacious and flexible interior and luggage compartment. As the batteries are located extremely well-protected and in a space-saving way underneath the vehicle floor, no compromises were necessary to achieve this. Its two high-performance lithium-ion batteries give the car a range of more than 200 km (NEDC). The necessary traction is provided by a quiet-running, locally emission-free electric drive with a top performance of 70 KW (95 hp) and an impressive 290 Nm of torque.

The production of the A-Class E-CELL will be integrated into the series production line for the A-Class in Rastatt. For the electric A-Class, Mercedes-Benz applies all the development and production standards of series production to an electric vehicle with battery-electric drive system. All electrical components meet the high standards in terms of quality, reliability and service life that are self-evident for Mercedes-Benz.

In terms of production, only minor adjustments have been necessary in order to integrate the A-Class E-CELL: as an example, new consoles for fixing the lithium-ion batteries were provided in the floor structure of the current A-Class. No changes to the bodywork structure were necessary. Assembly, including the pre-assembly of major components and the so-called 'marriage', the fitting of the drive train into the carriage, take place within the standard production line for the A-Class. Only the assembly and commissioning of the innovative lithium-ion batteries is undertaken at a separate station. Every A-Class E-CELL is then guided back into the standard A-Class production line for chassis dynamometer testing, rain test, final inspection and finish.
Particular attention is paid at the plant to the qualification of staff. Ever since Mercedes-Benz is producing high-voltage systems for standard-production vehicles, such as those installed in the S 400 HYBRID, the B-Class F-CELL or from now on in the A-Class E-CELL, all staff members involved have undergone training programmes specifically fitted to the work with high-voltage technologies.

"We have perfectly prepared our staff for working with these new, alternative technologies. Over the course of several training modules, they have been able to gain the essential qualifications for their future tasks. We are thus able to ensure that they are absolutely ready to work with high-voltage components", underlines Uwe Reich, Project Manager for the production of the A-Class E-CELL. Step by step, employees have been able to familiarise themselves with the necessary safety measures on the vehicle, the high-voltage components and on the installation of high-voltage systems. A central training production line within the Rastatt plant allows staff to put into practice what they have learned and to prepare them for their future responsibilities on the standard production line.

Between 2009 and 2012, Daimler AG will be investing some €600 million in extending the existing facilities and in building a new bodyshell work hall at the Rastatt plant. A further €10 million will be invested into the modification and updating of the paint shop. These investments underline once again Daimler AG's commitment to sustainability and to the significance of the Rastatt plant as a centre of competence for compact vehicles.

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