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BMW's i3 Takes On the Mercedes-Benz B-Class: Who Will Win This EV Showdown?

2014 B-Class Electric Drive. Photo credit: Mercedes-Benz 

Two of the biggest luxury auto brands in the world are throwing their respective hats into the electric-car ring. In one corner is BMW's (NASDAQOTH: BAMXF  ) i3. In the other corner is Daimler's (NASDAQOTH: DDAIF  ) Mercedes-Benz B-Class. So, which one will end up the EV winner?

BMW's i3

BMW's i3. Photo credit: BMW

As I wrote before, BMW's i3 has a starting MSRP of $41,350, and was built from the ground up as an electric vehicle. Further, it comes standard with a 22-kWh lithium-ion battery, and an all-electric 170-horsepower and 184-pound-feet-of-torque motor. This allows the i3 to go zero to 60 in approximately seven seconds and have a range of 80-100 miles in "Comfort" mode. That range can be increased by 24% by putting the i3 in "Eco Pro +" mode, or by opting for the two-cylinder gasoline range extender that increases the range up to 186 miles in "Comfort" mode.

Additionally, the i3 seats four, is rear wheel drive, and was just recently launched in the U.S.

Mercedes' B-Class

2014 B-Class Electric Drive. Photo credit: Mercedes-Benz

Similar to the i3, the B-Class has a starting price of $41,450. Additionally, it comes standard with a 28-kWh lithium-ion battery, and an all-electric 177-horsepower and 251 pound-feet of torque in a Tesla Motors-built motor. Further, it can go zero to 60 in 7.9 seconds, and has an EPA estimated driving range of 85 miles. But unlike the i3, which was built from the ground-up as an EV, the B-Class is available in European markets as a gasoline- or diesel-powered car, and its vehicle architecture is akin to that of a CLA. 

In addition, the B-Class seats five, is front-wheel-drive, and will have limited availability starting in mid-July 2014. It will be available in all 50 states sometime in 2015. 

Which is best?

BMW i3. Photo credit: BMW

When it comes to base price and range, both the i3 and B-Class are comparable. The same can be said for acceleration and top speed -- the B-Class is electronically limited to 100 mph, while the i3 is limited to 93 mph. When it comes to size, the i3 is 157 inches long, while the B-Class is a little over 171 inches. Of course, the B-Class is also substantially heavier than the i3. And then there's appearance.

The i3 definitely stands out as a futuristic car, but that could be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your tastes. The B-Class, on the other hand, looks like a cross between a Mercedes R-Class and an ML -- that is to say, it looks like a Mercedes; although it does seem to lack a bit of the styling Mercedes' enthusiasts have come to enjoy.

What this means
Personally, I'm partial to the Mercedes based on size and appearance, but I'll be the first to admit that that's subjective. Nevertheless, what we do know so far is that the i3 had a strong launch with 2,022 EVs sold worldwide in the first quarter -- approximately 1,000 of that was for March alone. Unfortunately, we'll have to wait to see how the B-Class fairs. Regardless, both Mercedes and BMW offer investors impressive reasons to consider investing. In their recent April U.S. sales results, BMW reported a 10.7% year-to-date gain compared to the same time last year, and Mercedes reported a 6.1% gain. This is even more impressive when you consider that last year, both BMW and Mercedes posted record-breaking sales. Consequently, no matter who wins when it comes to electric-vehicles sales, both Mercedes and BMW are worth a second look when it comes to investing in your next auto stock.

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Katie Spence

Katie Spence has been a financial journalist for The Fool since 2011. She specializes in defense companies, “green" technology, autos, and robots. Follow her on Twitter for breaking news in the defense, auto, and robot industry.

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