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Mercedes plugs into hybrid plan

Unplugged: The Mercedes-Benz C-Class is likely to get a petrol-electric plug-in hybrid variant in the near future.

Ten new plug-in hybrid models on the way for Mercedes-Benz, including C-Class

Mercedes-Benz logo15 Sep 2014

MERCEDES-BENZ will launch plug-in hybrid versions of a number of its key models in the coming years, from smaller cars such as the A-Class hatchback to the S-Class limousine, as it re-focusses its hybrid strategy on plug-ins.

Daimler AG board member and head of research and development Thomas Weber confirmed that the German luxury brand would shift its focus from mild to plug-in hybrids, with a model offensive kicking off in Europe this year.

“During the next years, we will offer plug-in hybrids in all of our volume segments,” he said. “That means by 2017, we will launch up to 10 new models with plug-in hybrid powertrains.

“This covers not only our core ranges – C, E and S-Class, but also a number of SUV models. In other words, on average we will bring in a new plug-in hybrid to the market every four months.”

The first model in Mercedes' hybrid-powered model onslaught will be the S500 Plug-in Hybrid, which is likely to be followed by the C-Class-based C350 Plug-in.

The facelifted ML-Class SUV, due to be released next year, is believed to be in line for a plug-in version, but Dr Weber remained tight-lipped about other models.

He did however confirm that smaller models based on the MFA vehicle architecture, including the A-, B-, CLA- and GLA-Class, would also eventually gain plug-in hybrid variants, but added that the focus in the short-to-medium term was on larger models.

“We are working also to introduce plug-ins for our MFA architecture as well. A little bit later when we come closer to 2020, because 2020 is not so easy.”

The German giant is pushing ahead with the hybrid strategy in an effort to prepare for the European emissions standards for a fleet average that drops to 95g/km from 2020. The European Commission says that this equates to fuel consumption of about 4.1 litres per 100 kilometres on the combined cycle for a petrol-powered car and 3.6L/100km for a diesel.

While Mercedes-Benz will continue to produce and sell mild hybrid variants such as the S300 BlueTec, E300 BlueTec and forthcoming C300 BlueTec Hybrid, Dr Weber confirmed that the focus would be firmly on plug-ins for future models.

“We believe we will definitely now focus most of our capacity on plug-in hybrids solely, but at the end, we will come back to the question when it comes to cost.”

Dr Weber added that the future hybrid could shift focus again, because “at the end, the key question will be, what is the amount of money the customer is willing to pay for such a solution”.

Mercedes is also in the process of developing wireless charging technology with rival German car-maker BMW, with Dr Weber saying the reason for the collaboration was to standardisation of the technology.

“The first prototypes are running in our workshops, so its only a question of how fast we can develop with suppliers and make this technology ready. I think during the life-cycle (of the S-Class) it will come. So we are talking about two years from now.”

Benz's main rivals BMW and Audi are also developing plug-in hybrid variants, with the A3 e-tron set to be the first electrified Audi to hit our shores in March next year ahead of a diesel-electric plug-in version of the next-generation Q7 SUV in 2016.

BMW are still yet to confirm a production version of the Concept X5 eDrive plug-in hybrid, but it is believed it will make it to market in Europe next year.

Dr Weber said that he believed Mercedes-Benz was ahead of its competitors in regards to hybrid development, but that each company was working to a common goal.

“Looking around where they are and where we are at the moment I think on the plug-in side, we are a little bit ahead of the competition. But I know they all are working in the same direction. What we have done relatively cleverly, we prepared our overall architecture earlier than the others.” Dr Weber also suggested Toyota-owned luxury brand Lexus had slipped behind its European rivals when its comes to hybrid powertrain technology when asked if the Japanese car-maker had kicked off the electrification trend.

“We are all a little bit surprised that the hybrid inventor is so quiet at the moment when it comes to plug-in hybrids.”

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