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Car and Driver: A German Gigafactory? Daimler Tripling Size of Its Plant for Lithium-Ion Vehicle Batteries, Will Also Sell Home Backup Power


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2014 Mercedes-Benz B-class Electric Drive


Electricity is the sexy way to propel a car these days. Within the past 12 months, even before the Volkswagen scandal, all the major German automakers have announced plans to expand their electric-vehicle lineups in response to tightening emissions laws. The latest is Daimler, which has announced plans to drop more than $540 million on a new battery plant scheduled to open two summers from now.


Daimler’s existing 215,000-square foot facility in Kamenz, two hours south of Berlin, will triple in size by 2017. Since it opened in 2012, the plant has built an average of just under 18,000 lithium-ion batteries a year for the few hybrids and EVs Daimler has had on the market. Mercedes-Benz needs a whole lot more to supply 10 all-new plug-in hybrids going on sale by 2017, some of which are already out in Europe. Another dedicated all-electric crossover will join the party to compete with the Audi Q6.


A lot has changed in short time. In 2009, Daimler bought a 9.1-percent stake in Tesla for $50 million in order to secure powertrains for the Smart Fortwo and Mercedes B-class Electric Drive models. That stake then dropped to four percent before Daimler sold it for $780 million in October 2014.


Now that Tesla is an actual threat—the Model S outsold the S-class worldwide last year—Daimler is developing its own battery technology and plans to compete against the Tesla Powerwall with Benz-branded battery backup power systems for homes and businesses.


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