In Slip, Mercedes Reveals S-Class Plug-in Hybrid Possibility

By · March 22, 2013

Mercedes Vision S500 Plug-in Hybrid

In 2009, Mercedes revealed the Vision S500 Plug-in Hybrid concept.

During a recent media presentation in Sindelfingen, Germany, Mercedes reportedly failed to edit its PowerPoint with the usual Teutonic attention to detail—causing images of a future S-Class plug-in hybrid to be displayed in place of slides that were supposed to be showcasing the redesigned S-Class’s new console user interface. Australia’s Car Advice was the first to pounce on the error, writing:

“Screenshots of the limo’s TFT instrument display revealed versions showing ‘E drive’ accompanied by a battery usage gauge and graphic drivetrain schematic featuring an electric motor sitting behind a conventional engine and a battery pack positioned in the boot.”

If the error is indeed evidence that an S-Class PHEV is on its way to market, the news isn’t exactly coming out of left field. Back in 2009, Mercedes’s parent company Daimler announced a major reorientation towards electric-drive vehicles, promising a new hybrid every year and a plug-in hybrid by 2012. At the Frankfurt Motor Show that same year, Mercedes revealed the Vision S500 Plug-in Hybrid concept, which coupled a 3.5-liter V6 engine with a 44-kW electric motor to provide an estimated 73.5 mpg under European test standards.

Although Mercedes failed to meet the original 2012 release date for its first plug-in, in 2010, a hybridized S-Class variant badged as the S400 became the first mass-produced car in the United States to incorporate a lithium ion battery pack. That car was a mild hybrid offering a combined 21 mpg and retailing for more than $90,000. Though the S400 never made much of a dent in the U.S. market, a plug-in hybrid combining the performance power of the S-Class with fuel economy comparable to a Toyota Prius could prove to be a more intriguing prospect for luxury car buyers.

Daimler has been described here in the past as having a “swiss army knife approach" to electric drivetrains, experimenting with a number of different configurations tailored to different types of vehicles. Initially, the carmaker looked to other companies for help in developing EVs, including a partnership with Tesla that netted more than 2,000 electric Smart EDs. But for the next generation of the Smart ED, the carmaker moved development in-house, with a supply chain entirely owned and controlled by Daimler. It’s likely that any mass-produced Mercedes plug-in would also be an organically Daimler product.

If the S-Class plug-in is headed to market, the question becomes how many cars Mercedes will try to sell and where. Will the PHEV simply play the role of a “compliance car” aimed at satisfying CARB’s zero-emissions vehicle mandate, or does Mercedes really see room in the luxury sedan market for a fully-marketed plug-in hybrid? We likely won’t have any clue about these details until at least May, when Mercedes plans to officially reveal its new S-Class vehicles.

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