Mercedes Outlines Road to Future

Mercedes-Benz Plans to Confront the efficiency of its lineup with a plethora of technologies aimed at improving fuel economy, emissions and performance without impacting the marque's reputation for luxury and driving pleasure. Outlined as a Road to the Future, Mercedes' modular-powertrain systems will be tailored for the individual requirements of various markets around the globe, the auto maker says,

Mike Sutton

September 1, 2008

3 Min Read
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Mercedes-Benz Plans to Confront the efficiency of its lineup with a plethora of technologies aimed at improving fuel economy, emissions and performance without impacting the marque's reputation for luxury and driving pleasure.

Outlined as a “Road to the Future,” Mercedes' modular-powertrain systems will be tailored for the individual requirements of various markets around the globe, the auto maker says, and will include improvements to the internal-combustion engine, advanced micro- and full-hybrid drivetrains, zero-emissions fuel-cell and electric vehicles and next-generation biofuels.

Mercedes' ongoing push of Bluetec diesel models exemplifies its effort to make the compression-ignition design operate as cleanly as a gasoline engine.

The Ward's 10 Best Engines-winning 3.0L V-6 turbodiesel in the E320 sedan has led the charge for several years, with Bluetec-equipped R-, GL and ML-Class models joining the fleet this year as the first diesel cross/utility vehicles to meet U.S. emissions requirements in all 50 states.

Achieving diesel efficiency from gasoline engines will fall to other advancements, such as engine downsizing, turbocharging and next-generation direct-gasoline-injection (DGI) systems.

Highlighted by the BlueEfficiency moniker, these select models currently are available only in Europe and employ advanced powertrains with improvements to vehicle weight, aerodynamics, rolling resistance and energy management.

While Mercedes plans to introduce the technologies across its lineup, the existing BlueEfficiency range includes DGI variants of the V-6 C350, E350 and CLS350, as well as the aero-optimized C200 CDI clean-diesel sedan and similar C180 Kompressor with its efficient 1.6L gasoline 4-cyl.

Hybrid-electric vehicles also will play a significant role in the auto maker's future, with ML450 BlueHybrid and its two-mode hybrid drivetrain intended to be the world's most fuel-efficient CUV when it is released early next year.

Also arriving next year will be the S400 BlueHybrid sedan, which Mercedes expects to be the first passenger vehicle on the market to feature advanced lithium-ion batteries.

Micro-hybrid systems with engine start/stop capability, such as those seen on certain A- and B-Class models in Europe, also will become more common.

In addition, Mercedes is not yet ready to dismiss diesel HEVs and continues to study the efficient, yet expensive pairing with its Vision GLK Bluetec Hybrid CUV. Powered by a compact 4-cyl. turbodiesel and hybrid module, the combination develops 224 hp and 759 lb.-ft. (560 Nm) of torque, yet achieves 40 mpg (5.9 L/100 km) in the European cycle.

Bringing gasoline and diesel engines together through DiesOtto combustion, or homogeneous charge compression ignition, also will continue with improvements to the F700 research vehicle, Mercedes says.

Other areas of focus for the auto maker include improved all-electric drives, such as those used on the current 100-vehicle test fleet of Smart Fortwo prototypes in London, as well as improved hydrogen FCVs.

Mercedes expects to begin in 2010 series production of B-Class F-Cell models that feature Li-ion battery assistance, extreme cold-weather operability and a range up to 249 miles (400 km).

With the auto maker's shareholding in Germany's Choren Industries GmbH, advanced second-generation biofuels that do not compete with food crops also will be key to realizing the potential of the advanced powertrains.

SunDiesel, a biomass-to-liquid (BTL) fuel made from plant waste, holds the most promise, Mercedes says, as it is easily compatible with existing engines and fuel infrastructures, while also nearly carbon-dioxide neutral and free of sulfur and many other pollutants.

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