Mercedes' ubiquitous city bus is going electric in 2018

Prototypes of the all-electric shuttle are undergoing "extreme" testing in the Arctic Circle.

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Mercedes-Benz wants an electric version of its long-running city bus to power the emissions-free mass transit future. Over a dozen cities recently pledged to make their bus fleets all-electric by 2030 (among them LA and Seattle). And, if the German auto-maker gets its way, its EV will be the one ferrying people around all hours of the day. Mercedes announced that it plans to start producing the electric "Citaro" by the end of 2018.

In the meantime, it's begun testing prototypes in "extreme" conditions, like the icy roads of the Arctic circle and on the sweltering tarmac in Spain's Sierra Nevada. The move comes just days after its parent company Daimler unveiled its electric school bus, further emphasizing its commitment to electric public transportation.

The "ultra quiet" bus is powered by modular, lithium-ion battery packs that fuel the electric wheel hub motors at the rear axle. The company also touts its energy-efficient climate control system as a range booster. But, it will have its work cut out to beat EV manufacturer Proterra -- which recently set the record for longest distance traveled by an electric bus on a single charge (a whopping 1,101.2 miles). It's also facing competition from Navya, the French firm behind the Las Vegas driverless shuttle service that just started back up (albeit with a hiccup). Not to mention household names like Volvo and Toyota.

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