First Drive: Mercedes Benz S400 Hybrid

By dancurranjr On June 2nd, 2009

mercedes-benz-s400The Mercedes Benz S400 Hybrid is the world’s first mass produced car with a lithium ion battery. It’s the first Mercedes with a hybrid drive. And, with a price tag likely to approach or exceed $100,000, it’s going to be an ultra-niche vehicle. The S400 Hybrid will arrive in US showrooms beginning in August 2009.

Its competition in the nascent luxury green vehicle market will be the $109,000 two-seat all-electric Tesla Roadster; the $87,000 four-door Fisker Karma plug-in hybrid (not yet out); and the $104,000 Lexus LS 600h L—a V8 hybrid averaging 21 miles to the gallon. Lexus annually sells about 1,000 units of the LS 600h L.

Benz estimates fuel economy for the S400 will be 23 in the city and 33 on the highway. EPA numbers are not yet official, but did our own mileage test of this big luxury sedan on the roads of Southern Germany. Our drive loop took us from Stuttgart—the home of Mercedes Benz—to the town of Buel and back, a round trip of approximately 150 miles. The route was evenly comprised of high-speed driving on the Autobahn—where we ran at, ahem, greater than 100 mph—as well as moderately paced rural roads, and narrow streets through smaller hamlets. We achieved an impressive 29.3 miles per gallon—not bad for a car that weighs almost 5,000 pounds. (By the way, the V6 of the S400 is plenty strong for the Autobahn.)

With much stricter speed limits in the US, it’s reasonable that fuel economy results will be even better. But saving fuel and money is not the first concern for buyers of this car. The buyer of the S400 hybrid is probably just as interested in pairing the Mercedes three-pointed star emblem with a hybrid badge, to demonstrate a combined interest in luxury, refinement, and green status. Mercedes claims that the S400 is the “CO2 champion in the luxury class,” emitting a relatively low 186 grams of carbon per kilometer.

As the hybrid version of the Benz flagship S-Class sedan, the S400 is powered by a mild hybrid system with a 3.5-liter V6 gas engine. The hybrid system allows Mercedes to maintain its high-power profile, while using a V6 instead of a V8 or V12. The electric-gas combo provides a total output of 295 horsepower, channeled through a seven-speed automatic transmission. Benz is particularly proud of what it refers to as “compact” batter technology. Engineers made this hybrid system as well-packaged and light as possible. (Mercedes-Benz was able to fit the entire pack into the same space, at the right-hand base of the windshield, that previously housed the car’s standard lead-acid 12-Volt starter battery.) The S400 weighs only about 120 pounds more than the standard S-Class.

Driving Manners

The S400 drives much smaller than it is. Cutting through the tight twisties of Germany’s Black Forest, this hybrid cornered flatly and with confidence. It is as nimble and agile as its gas-powered counterpart. Stability comes from Active Body Control, an active suspension that continually adapts the suspension tuning to the current driving situation. The S400 features Torque Vectoring Brake, as well as Crosswind Stabilization, both enhancing the sure-footedness of the car. Other high-tech advancements include a pre-collision system, adaptive high beam assist, lane keep assist, and radar-based cruise control.

The cabin of the car is as plush as the standard S-Class. It shares all the same luxury features including a new split-view driver interface, which allows the front passenger to watch a movie without distracting the driver. There’s also a “Night View Assist” feature that detects pedestrians on the road ahead. The only interior difference is the S400’s hybrid gauge showing the flow of power between engine, battery, and regenerative braking.

The S400 shares the look of the S-Class. Signs of its recent facelift include a more aero grille, revised LED lighting at the front and back, and new mirrors, tailpipes, and wheels. The Mercedes Benz S400 hybrid is a luxurious, fuel-efficient saloon with lots of driving appeal. With its steep purchase price, it’s obviously not for everyone—but it is one more option for uncompromising affluent buyers seeking a slightly greener ride.


New-look S 400 Hybrid set for Middle East

By dancurranjr On May 1st, 2009

mercedes-benz-s400Here is the first picture of the new Mercedes-Benz S400 that will be the first hybrid luxury sedan in the world with a lithium-ion battery and which will arrive in the Middle East & Levant in September this year.

The S 400 Hybrid is an important milestone on the way to emission-free mobility,’ said Frank Bernthaler, Director, Sales and Marketing, Mercedes-Benz Cars, Middle East & Levant.

‘Our first series production hybrid car exemplifies Mercedes-Benz’s long-standing development strategy geared towards sustainability, with its clearly defined aim of producing economical and environment-friendly premium cars without compromising on safety, comfort and superior performance.’

he added.

The first hybrid drive in a series production car from Mercedes-Benz makes this S-Class model the most economical petrol-engined luxury saloon. The fuel consumption of 7.9 litres per 100 kilometres corresponds to carbon dioxide emissions of just 186 grammes per kilometre. This is the lowest level worldwide in this vehicle segment, confirming the new S 400 Hybrid as the ‘CO2 champion of the luxury class’.

The excellent fuel consumption and the low CO2 emissions of the S 400 Hybrid are accompanied by truly superior performance potential with the modified 3.5 litre petrol engine generating 279 hp, while the electric motor produces 20 hp and a starting torque of 160 Nm.


Mercedes to Open Hybrid R&D Center in Ann Arbor

By dancurranjr On March 23rd, 2009

mercedes-hybrid-engineAnn Arbor is attracting several advanced hybrid technology facilities to its premises – and now it can add Mercedes-Benz to the list of companies investing in the city.

Mercedes is seeking to relocate a hybrid technology research and development center from Troy, Michigan to Washtenaw County, MLive reported this morning.  The automaker would hire as many as 223 people over the next ten years.  Dubbed the Mercedes-Benz Engineering Center for Powertrains USA, it would be the first major operation of its kind in the Ann Arbor area.

Currently, Mercedes employs 14 people at an engine tech center in Ann Arbor.

According to MLive’s sources, Mercedes is looking for 65,000 square feet for the center, which would develop hybrid transmissions, electric motor technology software and power electronics.  The Michigan Economic Development Corp. is set to approve tax credits for the center today.  The operation could cost up to $9.9 million over five years.

“The MBH Center will employ largely experienced engineers and technicians and will utilize other available and proven local service resources for equipment, test facilities, prototype builds and personnel,” MEDC officials wrote in internal documents, according to MLive.

Other companies specializing in electric vehicle assets include a new startup called Sakti3, which specializes in lithium-ion batteries and has close ties to GM; Advanced Battery Coalition for Drivetrains, a $5 million project with University of Michigan researchers and GM engineers in electric vehicle research; and A123Systems, a battery development company seeking federal energy loans to build a $1 billion plant in the area.

Toyota recently opened a brand new Toyota Technical Center branch just outside Ann Arbor last October, and also has a Calty Design Research production studio in Ann Arbor.

SOURCE: Automobile Mag

First Hybrid Passenger Car by Mercedes-Benz

By dancurranjr On September 29th, 2008

Mercedes-Benz is launching its first passenger car model equipped with a hybrid drive system in summer 2009: the S400 Blue Hybrid. The new model is based on the S350 and features a modified drivetrain. This encompasses a further development of the 3.5 litre V6 petrol engine, an additional magneto-electric motor, the 7G-Tronic seven-speed automatic transmission specially configured for the hybrid module, the necessary operating and control electronics, the transformer and a high-voltage lithium-ion battery. Thanks to its compact dimensions and modular design, the additional weight of the overall system is only 75 kilograms – including the comprehensive safety systems.

The combination of a modified V6 petrol engine and a compact hybrid module makes the model one of the most economical luxury saloons with a spark-ignition engine. According to the German car manufacturer the New European Driving Cycle combined fuel consumption is a mere 7.9 litres per 100 kilometres resulting in the lowest CO2 emissions in this vehicle class of 190 grams per kilometre. The 3.5 litre petrol engine develops an output of 205 kilowatts; the electric motor generates 15 kW and a starting torque of 160 Newton metres. The result is a combined output of 220 kW and a combined maximum torque of 385 Newton metres. The compact hybrid module is a disc-shaped electric motor that also acts as a starter and generator. The system offers both fuel consumption and performance. This is partly due to the booster effect of the electric motor, as it powerfully backs up the petrol engine with a maximum additional torque of 160 Newton metres during the high-consumption acceleration phase. The hybrid module also has an electronic Start/Stop function, which switches the engine off when the vehicle is at a standstill. When it is time to move off again, the electric motor restarts the main power unit. When the vehicle is braked the electric motor acts as a generator, and is able to recover braking energy by a process known as recuperation.

The centrepiece of the modular hybrid drive system is the new high-voltage lithium-ion battery, which was specially developed for automotive use. Major advantages over conventional nickel/metal hydride batteries include a higher energy density and better electrical efficiency, together with more compact dimensions and a lower weight. The lithium-ion battery not only stores energy for the electric motor, but is also connected to the 12 Volt onboard network via the transformer to supply power to other standard consumers such as the headlamps and comfort features. The engine management system responds very sensitively to different driving conditions, and optimally configures the drive system for the relevant application, ensuring that both fuel consumption and emissions are kept to the lowest possible level. Dedicated control electronics are required to operate the three-phase Alternating Current electric motor in the 120-Volt high-voltage Direct Current network. The current converter is accommodated in the space formerly occupied by the starter. As the control electronics heat up as a result of electric currents measuring up to 150 ampere, the system is equipped with its own, additional low-temperature cooling circuit.

Source: ATZ Online

Mercedes Announces Hybrid S-class for 2009

By dancurranjr On September 15th, 2008

Hybrid cars are quickly becoming a popular way for drivers to save at the pumps and help save the environment. While the long-term savings offered by a hybrid vehicle when compared to a normal gasoline engine are debatable, hybrids continue to thrive.

Japanese automakers have been offering hybrid cars for many years now and one of the first hybrids to hit the market was Toyota’s Prius. German luxury carmakers like BMW and Mercedes have yet to produce a production hybrid vehicle. Mercedes points out that it instead focused on diesel engines and has diesel engines that are comparable on fuel efficiency to electric hybrids.

Diesels may sell well in Europe, but in America, the diesel engine is not a popular choice. Due partly to these concerns, Mercedes finally announced that it will bring a hybrid vehicle to the U.S. and Europe. Business Week reports that Mercedes will offer a hybrid version of its S-Class luxury sedan which will first be available in Europe in June of 2009.

Mercedes reports that the hybrid S-Class will be available in the U.S. and China in September 2009. The hybrid S-Class will get overall fuel economy of about 29.8 miles per gallon. For comparison, Honda recently announced its Insight would offer fuel economy of around 71 miles per gallon.

Mercedes thinks that its average affluent buyer isn’t ready for a Prius or an Insight, but a hybrid S-Class would be appealing and would help improve how the Mercedes buyer feels about owning such a large car. The exact price of the hybrid option hasn’t been determined by Mercedes at this time. Mercedes Sales and Marketing Director, Klaus Maier, says that the hybrid S-class would likely carry a premium over the stock S-class of around $14,000. Add that to the starting price of $88,000 and you get an idea of the sales price.

Mercedes reportedly doesn’t use a hybrid system similar to what is common in the Toyota Prius with large batteries and the ability for short bursts of full-electric driving. The Mercedes system uses a lithium-ion battery that is slightly larger than a typical car battery. The hybrid battery stores under the hood as well, meaning that S-class owners will see no reduction in interior or trunk space by choosing the hybrid option.

The electric hybrid motor will supplement the six-cylinder gasoline engine producing 279-horsepower during acceleration to help improve fuel economy. The Mercedes hybrid system will also use regenerative braking to help recharge the battery.

Mercedes also points out that its lithium-ion battery is one of the main innovations of its hybrid system. The new battery technology allows the complete hybrid system in the S-type to add only 165 pounds of total weight to the car. Mercedes also makes clear that its lithium-ion battery system has no potential to overheat.

The S-class is the first hybrid in what Mercedes envisions as a complete line of more environmentally friendly luxury vehicles. The luxury carmaker plans to offer one new hybrid vehicle each year after the debut of the S-class hybrid.

Source: Daily Tech