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Coming Soon: The Tesla-Based Mercedes

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- One year from now, Mercedes will launch its all-new electric car that has been co-engineered with Tesla (TSLA - Get Report).

What is this car, and why is Mercedes staking its future on Tesla?

One occupational hazard of living where Tesla test-drives its cars under development is that as long as I'm not asleep or fetching stuff from the basement, all I need to do is to look out the window and every few minutes I will see these cars passing by. So for over a year now I have been looking at the future Tesla-based Mercedes as often as every hour, whether I like it or not.

Sometimes, the Tesla-based Mercedes test cars are parked on a public street. I took this picture (among many) last October:

This Tesla-based Mercedes is of a similar size and shape as Ford Motors' (RIMM) C-Max, which is sold as both a regular hybrid and as a plug-in hybrid version -- and which I recently drove 1,247 miles in a high-speed endurance test.

In other words, it's a short and somewhat tall station wagon.

Obviously, unlike the Ford C-Max, this Mercedes is a pure electric car. The batteries are, just like in the Tesla Model S, laying flat inside the floor, which is about 5 inches to 6 inches thick.

Tesla also helped Toyota bring to market an all-electric version of its very popular RAV4 small/medium-SUV. Only 2,600 of those cars are being made, and sales started last September. I have driven this outstanding Tesla-based Toyota (TM) on multiple occasions.

I highly recommend the Toyota RAV4 electric to anyone interested in an all-electric car, and for whom 110 miles of range will fit the intended purpose.

The main difference between the Toyota and the Mercedes is this: In the case of Toyota, Tesla took an existing car and re-designed it to make it an all-electric car. In the case of Mercedes, it looks like Tesla took part in the engineering from Day 1 and is therefore able to better optimize the car for all-electric duty.

How will this manifest itself in terms of differences between the Toyota and the Mercedes? The Toyota has a 42-kW battery, and judging from crawling under the Mercedes on a reasonably clean street, I'd say the Mercedes has a 36-kW battery.

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