Mercedes-Benz has re-energised its hybrid strategy. A blend of diesel and petrol hybrids will now be a key part of the company's large car plans as it works to reduce its product's CO2 output, says the company's R&D boss, Dr Thomas Weber.
The latest shots in the renewed Benz hybrid line-up are the four-cylinder turbodiesel E 300 Hybrid and V6-petrol powered E400 Hybrid rolled out in full production form at Geneva Motor Show this week. But the big news revealed by Weber is that the new generation S-Class due in the next 18 months will not only include a new hybrid model but also Mercedes' first production plug-in hybrid sedan.
"It’s clear in Europe with 150 gram, 125 gram and going to 95 gram [CO2 fleet average target] in 2020 that we have to do always the next step to reach such ambitious goals. I think... to offer hybrids will be important," Weber told motoring.com.au.
"As you know we [now] have gasoline and diesel [hybrids] available, left and right-hand drive and station wagon and a limousine [sedan] -- so we are prepared for the market."
Weber says the E-Class models are only an opening shot. He suggests Mercedes' hybrid roll out will now accelerate.
"In principle, yes [we will roll hybrid out to all models], but we start with our hybrid strategy with C-Class upwards -- where the drivetrain has north-south oriented engine. [The arrival of hybrid] in the E-Class also was an important decision. [The E-Class is in] the heart of Mercedes [and is the] start the next offensive of our hybrid strategy.
According to Weber the 'orientation' of the hybrids' combustion engine will be determined by market. The USA and China will get petrol-electric models with Europe favouring diesel/hybrid combinations. Australia could well fall somewhere in the middle...
But even with a renewed commitment to hybrid, conventional diesel will still be the backbone of Mercedes' low-emission strategy, says Weber – though with some caveats.
"It’s definitely linked to the countries [but] In Europe we still see a clear trend to diesel. To fulfil 95 [gram/km CO2 emiision target] with our diesel will be a really hard story but today we have at least 50 per cent market share of diesels in Europe. In some countries such as Austria and Switzerland it is 70 and higher percentage points.
"But in the end we, as a global player, have to prepare ourselves for a market which [is changing]. As of today it is not clear which direction it will go -- so we have to be flexible."
The nest step in Mercedes' hybrid strategy is the arrival of the new S-Class. Mercedes is targeting a fuel economy figure of just 3.2L/100km for the full-sized limousine, with the plug-in version's electric-only range could be in excess of 100km.
"More boost [from the electric motor], brake recuperation and [engine-off] coasting as functions [will be added in next generation Mercedes hybrids], and these add on 50 per cent better fuel economy. And in the future there will be back-up [plug-in] systems available, starting with a new S-Class and with such a system we will come for an S-Class to about 70 grams [CO2 per kilometre]," Weber revealed.