Mercedes-Benz electrification plans: charting the changes

Mercedes-Benz EQA concept, 2017 Frankfurt auto show

Mercedes-Benz EQA concept, 2017 Frankfurt auto show

Mercedes-Benz is currently constructing a battery plant in Kamenz, Germany, the second of five such plants that will be in operation in three continents by the start of the next decade, including one in the United States.

The U.S. plant will be constructed in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, at a cost of $1 billion. It’s where Mercedes already has a vehicle plant that’s earmarked to start construction of electric cars in the coming years.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Mercedes’ electrification plans. The automaker is taking a holistic approach on the road to zero emissions and thus is also focused on improving the emissions of internal combustion engines, offering hybrid options across its lineup, adding hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, and building up the required charging infrastructure for future plug-ins.

“We are placing our emphasis on highly efficient high-tech combustion engines, systematic hybridization and battery-electric or fuel cell drive systems,” Ola Källenius, Mercedes’ R&D chief, said in a statement. “Our approach is deliberately broad in view of our extensive vehicle portfolio and our customers’ mobility requirements.”

10 electric cars by 2022

Electric cars are very much the focus of Mercedes’ electrification plans which fall under the auspices of the EQ sub-brand. Mercedes is committed to launching 10 electric cars by 2022, the first of which will be the EQC small SUV starting production in 2019. The second is likely to be an EQA compact hatchback. A total $11.8 billion is being invested to develop these 10 vehicles.

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2017 Fuso eCanter

2017 Fuso eCanter

There will be electric commercial vehicles, too. The Fuso eCanter electric truck is already in production and will be followed in 2018 by an electric bus. Mercedes is also developing electric versions of the Metris and Sprinter vans, and one of its truck brands, U.S.-based Freightliner, is developing an electric version of the Cascadia semi-trailer truck for long-distance haulage.

However, Mercedes understands that not everyone is ready for electric cars. The automaker is predicting that electric cars will only account for 25 percent of all sales by 2025, meaning 75 percent of Mercedes’ cars will still have an internal combustion engine. Most of the remaining 75 percent will feature some form of electrification, though. Mercedes will be offering an electrified option on virtually all of its model lines, so pretty much every customer will at least be able to choose a greener option.

Mercedes says plug-in hybrids will play a key role on the road to zero-emission mobility. This is because they offer customers the best of both worlds; in the city they can drive in fully electric mode, while on long journeys they benefit from the combustion engine’s range. To underline the important role of hybrids in the process of electrifying the car, the plug-in models from Mercedes will sport “EQ Power” badges (“EQ Power+” in the case of AMG) to link them with the EQ sub-brand.

Mercedes will use plug-in hybrid technology on models sized from the C-Class up. In the smaller categories, the automaker will rely on simpler mild-hybrid systems where an electric motor is used to aid the engine but cannot power the vehicle on its own.

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Mercedes also plans to introduce hybrid technology on buses. Already available on the Citaro bus line, the technology, in conjunction with a highly efficient electrohydraulic steering system, has improved efficiency by around 8.5 percent.

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