Just weeks after revealing a new plug-in hybrid prototype at the Geneva Motor Show, the Concept V-ision e, Mercedes-Benz says it plans to add 10 new PHEVs to its line-up by 2017, a pace that will see one of the new models roll out, on average, every four months.
The German maker launched its first barely a year ago, the S500 Plug-In Hybrid, and it will follow it this month with the addition of the new Mercedes C350e. By the time the strategic initiative is completed, Mercedes will offer a plug-based version of virtually all of its major product lines.
“Plug-in hybrids are a key technology on the road to the local emission-free future of the automobile,” said Thomas Weber, the Mercedes board member overseeing R&D.
In Europe, the C350e will be offered in both wagon and sedan body styles. Both models will be powered by a gas-electric driveline developing a combined 279 horsepower and 443 pound-feet of torque. That’s slightly less hp but far more torque than the standard, gas-powered C350. But the plug-in also delivers up to 26 miles of range in electric mode, while cutting fuel consumption to 112 mpg in the combined European cycle. (The U.S. mileage number is typically at least a third lower.)
Going forward, all Mercedes plug-ins will carry the “e” designation, a shift away from the nomenclature used for the S500 Plug-In Hybrid.
The maker isn’t revealing all the products that eventually will get plug-based drive systems, but it did note that “this key technology will make its entry soon into the SUV segment with the new Mercedes-Benz GLE.” The Concept V-ision e unveiled in Geneva this month suggests that a version of the midsize van – sold in Europe as the Vito and soon to be launched in the U.S. as the Metris – is in line for a plug-in system, as well.
(Audi planning 300-mile all-electric SUV. Click Here for more.)
Mercedes is just one of a growing number of high-end automakers adopting plug-based technology. BMW this week announced the first plug-in version of one of its SUV models, the X5 xDrive40e. Audi has plans to rapidly expand its e-tron plug-in line-up, while also offering a number of pure battery-electric vehicles. Cadillac already offers the ELR, a dedicated plug-in model.
Porsche has several plug-ins already, including the 918 Spyder ultracar. And even Bentley plans to come onboard with a plug-based version of the Bentayga luxury plug-in set to go on sale later this year.
(Porsche may add all-electric model. Click Here to find out more.)
There are a number of reasons for this push in a premium sector where motorists typically are less influenced by fuel costs than in mainstream marked segments. As Tesla Motors has tapped into, there’s a small but measurable market for advanced green technologies, for one thing.
But there are other factors that are forcing luxury makers like Mercedes to act, notably the increasingly tough new mileage and emissions standards these manufacturers face around the world.
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Meanwhile, a growing number of cities are considering limits on the automobile. London exempts plug-based vehicles from its hefty commuter tax, however. And a number of other mega-cities may entirely restrict access to central urban areas to zero-emissions vehicles, or at least those that can be switched into electric mode. In smoggy Beijing and a number of other cities, motorists buying electrified vehicles are exempt from monthly registration quotas.
“Plug-in hybrids offer our customers the best of both worlds; in the city they can drive in all-electric mode, while on long journeys they benefit from the combustion engine’s range,” said Mercedes’ Weber, in a statement. “In addition, hybridization makes the combustion engine more efficient and brings with it a special type of dynamic performance – making driving an absolute pleasure.”
(Tesla CEO Musk plans to “end range anxiety” with big news to come this week. Click Here for more.)