Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Blue is Green at Mercedes-Benz

On February 20th I mentioned the Mercedes-Benz E-class Bluetec diesel, available now in the US. The company made two more big announcements at the Geneva Motor Show last week. The first was that they are ready to introduce lithium-ion batteries in a hybrid version of its top-of-the-range S-class sedan next year. Dubbed the S400 BlueHybrid, this large sedan uses a 3.5 liter V6 which together with the electric motor delivers about 299 horsepower. The company claims 29.7 mpg, and the car will reach US shores in the third quarter of 2009.

This will be followed by a turbodiesel-electric hybrid version, the S300 Bluetec Hybrid, delivering 221 horsepower and no less than 43.6 mpg. Finally, this same power train will be used in a version of the GLK SUV; the Vision GLK Bluetec Hybrid will deliver 39.7 mpg. The nomenclature is a bit confusing, and I am not sure why blue is the new green in Mercedes-speak, but if verified by independent tests it will be difficult to argue with these impressive results.

Lithium-Ion batteries are used in electronic devices like laptops, where they have been known to catch fire, but this is the first mainstream application for cars. (My Tesla will also have lithium-ion batteries when they finally deliver it, while Chevrolet cites the need to perfect these batteries as the reason the Volt will not be available until 2010.) Mercedes-Benz have integrated the batteries into the cooling system to keep them at an efficient and safe temperature.


Ameriga Columbus said...

Thanks for dropping me your note about your blog. I am actually a lobbyist for an environmental conservation organization, so I am glad to know you're there.

I'd like to see affordable fuel-saving cars more prominent in the US market. Anyone other than Mercedes out there that you've got an eye on?

Tony Welsh said...

A number of manufacturers are expected to launch diesels in the US over the next year or so. These include Honda/Acura, Volkswagen, Audi and BMW. Diesel is probably the best bet for increased efficiency in the short term, and I guess Honda and Volkswagen are going to be the most affordable.

In the medium-term, look out for pure electric or plug-in hybrids (which of course could be diesel-electric). The Chevy Volt may be have the biggest impact in the US. However, using grid electricity is of little benefit if the electricity is generated from fossil fuels, however, and with current battery technology the range tends to be rather short.