Cars

Increasing curb weights for car models: watch out, the 3-tonners are coming!

It is becoming more and more common for car models to have a gross vehicle weight of more than three tons. Some series can just about be driven with a B-class driver’s license. Electrification is not the only problem, but it exacerbates it.

January 1, 1999 was a crucial date when it came to driver’s licenses. At that time, a good 23 years ago, the German driving license classes were transferred to the EU logic. What severely curtailed the rights of people with a car driver’s license: Anyone who had previously obtained a class 3 driver’s license could not only drive normal cars with it. But also trucks with a maximum permissible total mass of 7.5 tons or trains with no more than three axles. For people with the following class B driver’s license, the limit in terms of permissible total mass is 3.5 tons.


The loss of privileges was manageable for most drivers. A Mercedes S 500 of the W220 series, one of the largest passenger car models at the time, weighed only 1,875 kilograms even in the long version. The permissible total weight? 2.4 tons, which is why it was even possible to tow trailers weighing up to 1.1 tons. With the BMW 750iL (factory code E38), which hovered around the two-ton mark, this scope was somewhat smaller, but still adequate.


Close to the 3.5 ton limit

With the modern, purely electrically driven successors of the two luxury class sedans mentioned, things are different. The empty BMW i7 xDrive60 weighs significantly more than its ancestor from the late 1990s: the curb weight of 2,715 kilograms (according to EU standards) clearly and unequivocally tops the permissible total mass of that time. Incidentally, the Bavarian electrician comes pretty close to the class B driver’s license limit with 3,250 kilograms. It doesn’t look much better with the Mercedes-AMG EQS 580 53 4Matic+: It weighs 2,680 kilograms empty and can be loaded with up to 545 kilograms; makes a gross vehicle weight of 3,225 kilograms.

Uwe Fischer/BMW

A BMW 750 iL of the E38 series – here a film car from a James Bond film – was about 27 centimeters shorter than today’s i7.

The phenomenon of ever heavier cars is not new and has many causes. Increasingly improved safety systems are bringing more mass into cars, as is customer demand for ever more comfortable equipment and more and more digital technology. Added to this is the increase in size, which – to stay with the examples – has allowed the EQS to grow by a good 16 centimeters compared to the S-Class ancestor. In the case of the BMW, the increase in length even goes in the direction of 27 centimetres. Here – to emphasize this again – the old luxury class models are the long versions of their series. The ongoing SUV boom does the rest in terms of weight gain.


The battery alone weighs almost 700 kilograms

The main drivers behind the increase in weight are of course the XXL batteries, each with a usable capacity of over 100 kilowatt hours, which the EQS and i7 carry around with them. The Mercedes’ energy storage alone is said to weigh 692 kilograms; that of the BMW should move in similar regions in this respect. This means that these batteries are still relatively light: The battery of the Audi E-Tron S Quattro has a net capacity of just 86 kilowatt hours, but weighs 699 kilograms. No wonder that the electric SUV is one of the heaviest in the country at 2,730 (unladen weight) or 3,245 kilograms (permitted total weight).



Now you might think: everything is fine, the class B 3.5 ton limit is still a few kilos away. That’s true. But only until a trailer needs to be pulled. With the i7 and EQS, this should be a rather secondary topic. Unlike the E-Tron, after all, SUVs are popular towing vehicles for caravans and horse trailers. Holders of a class B driving license have to pass quickly here; much more than transporting garden waste in the lightweight trailer from the hardware store is not possible for them with this car. Unless you have a trailer driver’s license. Five compulsory driving lessons are required for this – and in case of doubt as many more than the learner driver needs to learn the trailer manoeuvres. The costs quickly reach four-digit euro amounts. Or mum and dad have to get to it – along with a class 3 driver’s license.


Electric, PHEV or luxury class

If you look at the heaviest current car models, e-car critics in particular see their arguments confirmed. In addition to pure electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids (PHEV), only representatives from the absolute luxury class are at the top of this ranking. Due to the minimal number of pieces, they stand for themselves and are not exemplary for the overall picture described. Things are different with cars like the Audi E-Tron S Quattro or the Mercedes GLE 350 de 4Matic, which is a diesel PHEV.

Mercedes GLE 350 de, Exterior

Hans Dieter Seufert

Not only purely electric cars are among the heaviest in the country. This also includes plug-in hybrids such as the Mercedes GLE 350 de 4Matic.

The question of perspective remains: into which weight classes will the cars still drift? BMW has already announced that the XM, a PHEV-powered monster SUV announced for 2023, will be even heavier than the i7. After that, however, the reversal should take place, mainly driven by improved cell chemistry for the batteries. It remains to be hoped that the progress will not be eaten up by other effects. Otherwise, at some point, customers will no longer have the right driving licenses. The proportion of those road users who are allowed to move up to 7.5 tons thanks to a class 3 driving license is naturally decreasing more and more.


opinion poll

Yes. Until the batteries are significantly lighter, an e-car is out of the question for me.

no Even before that, our cars were getting heavier and heavier. Something has to be done in general.

Conclusion

The weight screw cannot be turned much further; the restrictions of the class B driver’s license set a natural limit here. There are already efforts to raise the weight limit to 4.25 or even 4.5 tons. The stakeholders in the caravanning industry in particular are fighting for this. But the trends in car weights could also make the topic relevant for drivers of normal cars.

Still, there’s no question that the auto industry needs to find ways to slim down its products again. Let’s hope that the technical development will bring the necessary progress here. And that customers also realize that less is more in this respect.

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