Daimler is ploughing €10bn into its project to develop 10 new battery powered electric vehicles by 2022. It might want to invest a bit more in design. The Concept EQA, freshly unveiled at Frankfurt, seems to lack a vital spark.
A few yards away the gorgeous, cavalier excess of the Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 Cabriolet and the cute, autonomous bubble of the Smart Vision EQ ForTwo conspired to demonstrate what the EQA lacks: vision.
In some ways the Concept EQA is neatly done, with pleasingly smooth, crease-free surfaces and playful touches. Spiral loops of light in the front and rear clusters, alluding to the electric power cables at the heart of the car, are a charming, playful touch. And the pulsing screen in place of a grille is used to subtle effect.
But the basic proportions of the EQA disappoint to an extent that no delightful detail can plaster over. It previews an electric A-Class but might just as easily preview the next petrol or diesel A-Class.
It’s there in the jutting front overhang – the Concept EQA looks like it was built to house an old-fashioned internal combustion engine.
Electric platforms ought to release manufacturers from the tyranny of packaging. Pretty much everything needed to propel, control and recharge an EV can be slotted under the floor and between the axles. If you can’t create an EV with fantastic proportions, you either aren’t trying very hard you’re being forced to cope with some other constraint.
Daimler has said it plans to produce its upcoming EVs on the same production lines as its conventional cars, and that no doubt explains the EQA’s humdrum outline. Perhaps the Mercedes EQ project will succeed despite its evidently compromised proportions. Or maybe the future EV market will turn out to be a tough one, full of cars shaped with electricity in mind from the start.