Obese cars: watch out, the 3-ton trucks are coming!

It is becoming more and more common for car models to have a gross vehicle weight of more than three tons. Some chains can be driven with a Class B driving licence. 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, that is, 23 years ago, the German driver’s license categories were transferred to the EU logic. Above all, this severely curtailed the rights of people who had a driver’s license: a person who previously had a third-class driver’s license could not only drive ordinary cars with it. But also trucks with a maximum permissible gross mass of 7.5 tons or trains with no more than three axles. For persons with a driver’s license of the following category B, the maximum permissible total mass is 3.5 tons.

The loss of perks was under control for most drivers. The Mercedes S 500 of the W220 series, one of the largest models of passenger cars at that time, weighed only 1875 kilograms even in the long version. Allowable gross weight? 2.4 tons, and for this it was even possible to tow trailers weighing up to 1.1 tons. With the BMW 750iL (factory code E38), which was hovering around the 2-ton mark, this range was somewhat smaller, but still adequate.

Close to 3.5 tons limit

With the recent all-electric successors mentioning the two luxury sedans, things are different. The empty BMW i7 xDrive60 weighs much more than its predecessor in the late 1990s: the curb weight of 2,715 kilograms (according to EU standards) clearly and unequivocally exceeds the permissible total mass at that time. By the way, the Bavarian electrician approaches the driving license limit for class B with 3,250 kilograms. It doesn’t look much better with the Mercedes-AMG EQS 580 53 4Matic +: it weighs 2,680 kg empty and can be loaded up to 545 kg; It makes the gross vehicle weight 3225 kg.

Ovi Fischer / BMW

The BMW 750 iL E38 Series – here is a James Bond movie car – was about 27 cm shorter than today’s i7.

The phenomenon of heavy cars is not new and has many causes. Increasingly improved safety systems are bringing more mass into cars, as is customer demand for more ergonomic equipment and more and more digital technology. Added to this is the increase in size, which – to stay with the examples – allowed the EQS to grow by 16 cm compared to its S-Class predecessor. In the case of BMW, the increase in length goes in the direction of 27 cm. Here – to emphasize this again – the older luxury class models are the long-running versions of their series. The ongoing SUV boom is doing the rest in terms of weight gain.

The battery alone weighs about 700 kg

The main driver behind the weight gain is of course the XXL batteries, each with a usable capacity of over 100 kWh, which the EQS and i7 carry with them. The Mercedes power storage alone is said to weigh 692 kilograms. BMW should move in similar areas in this regard. This means that these batteries are still relatively light: the Audi E-Tron S Quattro battery has a net capacity of only 86 kWh, but weighs 699 kg. No wonder the electric SUV is one of the heaviest vehicles in the country at 2,730 (unladen weight) or 3,245 kg (gross weight allowed).

Now you might be thinking: all is well, the class B’s 3.5-ton limit is still a few kilos. This is correct. But only until the trailer is towed. With the i7 and EQS, this should be a fairly minor topic. Unlike the E-Tron, SUVs are popular towing vehicles for caravans and horse trailers. Class B drivers license holders are required to pass fast here; Much more than transporting garden waste in a lightweight trailer from the hardware store is not possible for them with this vehicle. Unless you have a trailer driving license. 5 mandatory driving lessons are required for this – and much more than an educated driver needs to learn trailer maneuvers. Costs quickly reach four-digit euro amounts. Or mom and dad must have access to it – along with a third-class driver’s licence.

Electric, PHEV or luxury class

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

Mercedes GLE 350D, Exterior

Hans-Dieter Suffert

Not only are pure electric cars 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: To what weight classes will cars continue to drift? BMW has already announced that the XM, a PHEV-powered SUV announced for 2023, will be even heavier than the i7. Then, however, reversal should occur, primarily driven by improved cell chemistry for the batteries. It remains to be hoped that progress will not be eroded by other influences. Otherwise, at some point, customers will not have the correct driver’s licenses. The proportion of road users who are allowed to move up to 7.5 tons thanks to a category 3 driver’s license is naturally decreasing more and more.

opinion poll

Yeah. Until the batteries get lighter, an e-car is out of the question for me.

Not even before that, our cars were heavier and heavier. Something to do in general.

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The weight screw cannot be run much further; Class B driver license restrictions put a natural limit here. There are already efforts to raise the weight limit to 4.25 or even 4.5 tons. Stakeholders in the caravan industry in particular are fighting for it. But trends in car weights can make the topic very relevant to ordinary motorists.

However, there is no doubt that the auto industry needs to find ways to scale back its products. Let’s hope that technical development will bring the necessary progress here. And that customers also realize that less is more in this regard.

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