Our inboxes have been working overtime due to the insane number of press releases issued by the automotive manufacturers. Needless to say, most of the email fails to catch our attention, because we honestly don’t care about which insider got promoted to division head.
One specific release did indeed peak our interest. This one from Mercedes Benz:
Stuttgart – Daimler AG has achieved a crucial breakthrough in battery technology. The Stuttgart-based automaker is the world’s first manufacturer to have succeeded in adapting lithium-ion technology to the demanding requirements of automotive applications. Until now, the technology has been used primarily in consumer electronics. The new battery will be used in the series-production S 400 BlueHYBRID beginning next year. This important technology was possible thanks to 25 patents held by Daimler.
Dr. Thomas Weber, member of the Daimler AG Board of Management and responsible for Group Research and Mercedes-Benz Cars Development, says: “What we have here is a groundbreaking key technology that is going to be a decisive factor for the future success of the automotive industry. That is a tribute to our intensive research efforts, which we have been conducting in this area since 1992.”
The engineers’ success is above all a result of the Daimler-developed integration of the lithium-ion battery into the vehicle’s climate control system. This ensures that the battery always works at optimal system temperatures of between 15 and 35°C, which in turn makes it possible for the battery to provide long service life and maximum performance.
The main advantages offered by the newly developed lithium-ion battery are its very compact dimensions and its far superior performance compared to conventional nickel-metal hydride batteries. The weight/power ratio of the entire battery is 1,900 watts per liter (W/L). What’s more, the battery stands out by virtue of its high ampere-hour efficiency, long service life, and great reliability, even at very low temperatures. Its high level of safety is the equal of that provided by today’s auto batteries.
Lithium-ion batteries are ideally suited for use in hybrid vehicles to help reducing fuel consumption and thus also CO2 emissions. At the same time, the Daimler engineers are investigating to what degree this technology can be applied to other vehicle concepts, such as electric and fuel cell-powered cars.
S 400 BlueHYBRID — the world’s most economical luxury sedan
The S 400 BlueHYBRID consumes only 7.9 liters of gasoline per 100 km in the NEDC. This results in very low CO2 emissions of only 190 grams per kilometer, a very low value for this vehicle class and power class, making the S 400 BlueHYBRID the world’s most economical luxury sedan — unrivaled by any gasoline, diesel, or hybrid drive system offered by any competitor. And S 400 BlueHYBRID drivers will still enjoy impressive performance: combined with the hybrid module, the maximum output is 220 kW/299 hp, and the corresponding maximum torque is 375 Nm. The S 400 BlueHYBRID accelerates from zero to 100 km/h in 7.3 seconds on its way to an electronically limited top speed of 250 km/h.
Even more potential is offered by the combination of clean BlueTec diesel technology with a hybrid module, a duo that is featured in the S 300 BlueTec HYBRID, for example.
This definitely spells the end of Toyota’s worldwide dominance in hybrid technology, as well as puts the kibosh on its advantage from having Lexus as the only luxury division offering a hybrid.
Anyone familiar with “The Four Wheel Drift” knows we aren’t the poster-children for hybrid and diesel vehicle cheerleaders. In the past we’ve called-out hybrids for being a net loss for the environment, as well as challenging their economic value. The same holds true with diesel, which is currently much more expensive than gasoline, while only being able to claim lower greenhouse gasses (hence causing less global warming/climate change) at the expense of giving people asthma. Diesel also has an additional hurdle in America: our refineries are set-up to produce less from each vat of crude, so it will always be less economical than in Europe…that is until we build new refineries. At last we checked, nobody was volunteering their backyards for one.
Mercedes, though, has gone to great lengths to continually improve diesel to the point where we can see the firm in the near future offering oil-powered vehicles that emit less particulates than gasoline-powered counterparts. Furthermore, by combining diesel and advanced battery technology hybrids, the value benefits increase in terms of both economy and ecology.
This is not to say that other automakers are asleep at the wheel. General Motors actually provided an interesting story with its announcement that “Virgin Atlantic Airways, Ltd. … will use Chevrolet Equinox hydrogen fuel cell vehicles for its ‘complimentary ground transfer service for upper class passengers’ for planes landing at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).” The thought of a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle from GM is a great story, but it’s a little too little too late to get the standing ovation. After all, BMW already has H-cell 7-Series in the hands of real customers.
At least it’s better than Ford, which competed with announcements indicating, among other things, that “Ford’s new Focus and SYNC are connecting with small car buyers. Focus retail sales were up 36 percent in February – the fourth month in a row of higher retail sales” and Mazda North American Operations (MNAO) today announced that Mike Nakashima has been named director of marketing for Mazda North American Operations, reporting to Jim O’Sullivan, president and CEO of MNAO.
Congrats Mike! Maybe you can convince your parent company that what would be great for Mazda’s product strategy is if Ford would get off their asses and provide R+D money to build next-generation energy-powered vehicles to compete with those coming soon to BMW, Mercedes, Toyota, and Chevy dealerships.