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Mercedes-Benz predicts long road to electromobility

Speaking to news agency Headlineauto, the manufacturer’s head of sustainable research and development, Dr Herbert Kohler, said conventionally-powered models have a long future ahead – particularly diesels for heavy commercial vehicles – and may never be replaced completely by electric drivetrains. 

However, Kohler added that more than half of passenger cars will have some form of electric drive within the next decade, not including stop-start systems.

‘It could be 20% to 30% for plug-in hybrids and maybe even 40%. For battery vehicles 5% to 10%, and there will be a single-digit [percentage] number of fuel cells,’ he said.

‘A lot of good work is being done on our side and by the Asians – Toyota, the Koreans and Honda. There has been real good progress in the past five to eight years. Within the next 10 years they will be commercially available.’

Mercedes-Benz is actively pursuing electrified drivetrains, with an electric B-Class due to launch later this year, diesel-electric hybrid E-Class, S-Class and new C-Class models on sale or confirmed and plug-in hybrids in the pipeline. The company is also part of a three-way joint venture, with Renault-Nissan and Ford, which is targeting a production fuel cell vehicle by 2017.

Work is ongoing to improve conventional drivetrains and, although the easy efficiency gains have already been found, Kohler believes there’s more to come.

‘For the last 10 years I have had experienced guys telling me there are no more additional fuel savings from engines and then they come up with another brilliant idea,’ he said. ‘I believe our creative engineers can find another 10% savings over the next five years, but it is getting more and more expensive.’

Alex Grant

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