Battery Powered Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Jump-Starts a Trend

Mercedes-Benz will help lead a rush to "green" high-end luxury cars with a battery powered version of its gullwing Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG, announced this week at the Frankfurt Auto Show.

Parent Daimler had telegraphed the existence of the SLS AMG earlier, but not the electric powertrain. A convertible version is also highly likely.

"This exceptional car is far from being a nostalgic glimpse backwards. It is a determined step into the future. From the very start, we conceived this amazing car with an electric-only driveline," said Daimler Chairman Dieter Zetsche.

The new model recalls one of the most distinctive sports cars ever -- for Mercedes-Benz or any other brand -- the iconic 300 SL of the mid-1950s, with its gullwing doors hinged at the roof.

The Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG goes on sale in most markets, including the United States, in the spring of 2010. In Europe, the retail price will be the equivalent of about $260,000, including 19 percent Value Added Tax. The timing is less clear for the battery powered version.

Tesla Motors launched the first high-performance electric vehicle. Fisker Automotive, led by former BMW designer Henrik Fisker, is another would-be Tesla competitor. With Mercedes-Benz in the race, other mainstream luxury brands will likely follow.

The conventionally powered Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG model has a 6.3-liter V-8 that generates 571 hp, with a top speed of about 198 mph, for the European version. U.S. specifications will be announced later, but should be nearly the same. Zero to 62 mph (i.e. 100 kilometers per hour) is 3.8 seconds.

The battery powered version has four electric motors and goes from zero to 62 mpg in about four seconds, Zetsche said.