Mercedes-Benz presents an electric vehicle with a range of 500 kilometres – as one building block in a wide-ranging electrification strategy.
The future often arrives with little fanfare. That is currently particularly true for automobiles: Many signs indicate that the electric powertrain could see a major renaissance and become the standard powertrain – the sound of combustion engines will then be a thing of the past. Granted, it might take several decades to become reality across the board. However, the outlook gives us reason to be optimistic.
Renaissance? Indeed: During the early days of the automobile, it was by no means certain that the combustion engine would win the race. Around the dawn of the 20th century, electric vehicles really were the norm. It was only the desire for more range that gave free rein to the combustion engine. And this engine has a lot of merits: it elevated mobility and the transport business to the high level of today.
Efficiency enhancement through more intelligent technology.
Nothing should change in this respect. The electrification strategy of Daimler builds on it. “All Mercedes-Benz model series will be electrified. Starting in 2017, smart will be the only car manufacturer in the world to offer its entire model range powered by a combustion engine and as battery-electric vehicles,” says Thomas Weber, Member of the Daimler Board of Management, Group Research and Mercedes-Benz Cars Development.
And the company is expanding the horizon significantly further still: the company is working on a dedicated vehicle architecture for battery-electric vehicles. Thomas Weber: “Customers don’t want to do without, in the sense of ‘less car’ – quite the opposite is true. That is why we rely on enhancing the efficiency with more intelligent technology – consistently in all model series.”
Fuel cell plus plug-in: The only by-product is water vapour
Daimler presents the Mercedes-Benz GLC F-CELL this autumn, the first fuel cell vehicle with plug-in technology in series production. Fuel cell technology combines zero emissions with a long range, short refuelling times and a wide range of possible uses. It generates electricity for the electric powertrain from hydrogen. The only by-product is water vapour. The Mercedes-Benz GLC F-CELL is also the first representative of a new era: for the first time, the compact fuel cell system fits in conventional engine bays.
At first glance under the bonnet, the innovative powertrain doesn’t seem much different from a conventional one. You have to look more closely to spot what distinguishes it from the combustion engine that would normally be installed there. The engineers at Mercedes-Benz had set out to develop a powertrain that would fit into the standard engine compartment. And they deliberately decided to install the powertrain technology in a model with emotional appeal that embodies the pleasure of driving.
Refuelling takes three minutes
The eminent suitability of the fuel-cell-powered GLC for everyday use becomes evident during refuelling. At the unveiling of the new model at the Mercedes-Benz TecDay ‘Road to the Future’ event in Stuttgart, it was demonstrated how quickly the hydrogen tanks can be filled. After slightly less than three minutes, the tanks – which can hold four kilogrammes of hydrogen – are full and the car is ready to go. Each kilogram is enough for a little over 100 kilometres.
The Mercedes engineers were also able to achieve a significant optimisation on the financial side. They managed to reduce costs dramatically, simply by lowering the platinum content of the fuel cell by 90 percent.
As another innovation of the next-generation fuel cell vehicles, the GLC F-CELL is equipped with a lithium-ion battery. It has a capacity of around 9 kWh and serves as an additional source of energy that for the first time on a fuel cell vehicle can also recharged on an external power grid thanks to plug-in technology. As a result, the all-electric vehicle offers maximum efficiency and convenience – and a projected range of 500 kilometres (NEDC).
Full-featured electric vehicle of the premium segment
However, the eyes of the world are not only on the GLC F-CELL this autumn. They also focus on something that sounds very technical at first, but nonetheless has tremendous implications: the new Mercedes-Benz cross-range technical architecture for all-electric vehicles. The world première was at the Paris Auto Show in September – in a full-featured electric vehicle of the premium segment that knows no compromise. The market launch is planned before the end of the decade.
For the first time, the fuel cell system fits in conventional engine bays
The new platform – as the F 015 and F 125! experimental vehicles before – will be systematically designed for zero-emission driving on battery power. For the implementation in series production, Mercedes-Benz benefits not only from the in-house engineering and production know-how, but also from Group-wide cross-range modular strategy for alternative powertrains, and from direct access to key components for electric mobility. In combination with the intelligent operating strategy of Mercedes-Benz, the high-efficiency lithium-ion battery from Daimler subsidiary Deutsche ACCUmotive will make all-electric ranges of up to 500 kilometres possible for the first time.
The Combined Charging System (CCS) quick-charging process offers maximum charging and operating convenience. This new European charging standard for electric and hybrid vehicles allows quick-charging at public charging stations with a much higher capacity than today.
Hybrid powertrains and 48-volt on-board power supply
At Daimler, the road to the emission-free future of motoring is flanked by various technologies. High-efficiency combustion engines are one pillar. In hybrid vehicles, they are combined with an electric motor. The power beating in two hearts ensures benchmarks for consumption, ride quality and dynamics. The range of Mercedes-Benz hybrid vehicles currently comprises 13 models.
A simpler yet highly effective variant of the electrified combustion engine is possible with the help of the 48-volt on-board power supply, whose development is also being advanced by Mercedes-Benz. Compared with a 12-volt system, it offers four times the power at identical currents. This power is used efficiently: The 48-volt system makes consumption and CO2 savings possible that were previously the exclusive domain of high-voltage hybrid technology.
A key component in this respect is the integrated starter generator (ISG). It allows the important hybrid functions such as energy recovery, boost as well as starting off and manoeuvring in all-electric mode to be realised. It is installed directly in the powertrain between the combustion engine and the transmission, and is brought on line when needed. The ISG combines a starter motor and an alternator in one unit – and can serve as a powerful electric motor. In this way, it assists the combustion engine, for example when starting and during acceleration, and recharges the battery by means of energy recovery.
The quiet future comes yet another step closer as a result.