Published on January 25th, 2016 | by James Ayre


Mercedes To Boost Electric Range Of Plug-In Hybrids

January 25th, 2016 by  

Originally published on EV Obsession.

While Mercedes currently sells a number of plug-in hybrids, most of these offerings have very limited electric ranges — often under just 20 miles — making the vehicles of questionable utility for those truly looking to cut their reliance on gas.

That is looking likely to change over the next few years, though, as the company is now planning to begin notably increasing plug-in hybrid (PHEV) electric ranges — starting in 2018 or so.


As the company is reportedly planning to offer PHEV versions of all “high-volume” models by the year 2020, the news is worth noting (with a pinch of salt). A couple of years from now, there will be a lot more options out there as far as pure electric vehicles (EVs) and PHEVs go, though, so one wonders if it’ll be too late for sales to be maintained even with somewhat improved range.

Green Car Reports provides more info on the news:

That news comes from an interview with Thomas Weber, product chief for Mercedes, published yesterday on the Australian automotive site Motoring. Weber says that Mercedes will have launched 10 separate plug-in hybrid models by the end of 2017, but that’s not the end of the story.

“The next-generation vehicle will overcome the 30-km to 50-km hurdle,” he told Motoring, “and then the next generation after that will be 80 to 100 km when they run as pure electric cars.”

…But the big question — unanswered by Weber — is when that second generation of Mercedes plug-in hybrids will arrive. If you assume two- or three-year improvements in lithium-ion cell energy density, that likely won’t be until the 2018 or 2019 model years.

If achieved, that’ll likely make the PHEVs in question of actual value for those looking to notably limit their gas use. That said, costs are almost always the fundamental determining factor…. Why would someone pay $40,000–50,000 for a PHEV with very limited range when one could get a Tesla Model 3 with +200 miles of range for $30,000? I can’t help but get the feeling that Mercedes is taking too long…

Check out our new 93-page EV report, based on over 2,000 surveys collected from EV drivers in 49 of 50 US states, 26 European countries, and 9 Canadian provinces.

Tags: ,

About the Author

's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy. You can follow his work on Google+.

  • ROBwithaB

    I don’t understand people who ridicule PHEVs. The more the merrier. Until such time as global battery suppliers are in a position to increase output by at least on order of magnitude, it could be argued that PHEVs are actually a greener solution, in that they enable a greater amount of electric miles traveled per kWh of battery capacity.
    Pick the low hanging fruit first…

    People are going to buy a LOT these German PHEVs (Merc, Audi, VW, etc). People who wouldn’t buy a Tesla, on principle. These vehicles will be a stepping stone, allowing conservative, reluctant, cautious consumers to embrace electrification one step at a time. Evolutionary rather than revolutionary change.

    More km traveled on electric. Less oil drilled.
    More research into battery technology.

    More volume for battery manufacturers. And more reliably predictable future orders, making it sustainable get financing for multiple production facilities.
    More progress towards cheap, generic battery technology that will enable the NEXT generation of super affordable, 250-300 mile EVs that will make ICEs completely redundant.

    Let them all play, and then let the market decide.

    • milliamp

      People do tend to underestimate the usefulness of PHEVs. 95% of automobile trips are shorter than 30 miles. If you take a PHEV that gets 40 MPG with 30 miles of electric range and drive it 60 miles you average 80 MPG doubling the mileage even for the longer trips and on shorter trips that make up most of driving you don’t need gas at all.

      I mentioned above that Volt owners see real world fuel consumption of about 100 MPG for this reason. They still buy electric for the MPGe of electric miles but the point stands that they appear to double gasoline mileage because the batteries are always used first and gasoline/hybrid is a backup for longer trips.

      Going to PHEV requires much more powerful electric motors, lithium ion packs etc. Companies investing in that technology should give them the training and skills necessary to take the next step to BEV later on.

      PHEV’s are a little complex but they aren’t a bad solution. One of the biggest thing standing in the way of full EV for a lot of automakers is a faster charging method. 240v charging is fine for a PHEV but when the only thing you have is a battery a lot of people aren’t willing to sit at a charge station for 8 or 10 hours.

  • Eric Wadge

    There will be a tipping point where car manufacturers will see there EV business as integral to their whole business. We are not there yet and even companies such as BMW who have, in my opinion, released some great EV/PHEV, are still moving cautiously. One day, the range and charging times of EVs will become an arms race amongst manufacturers and then we’ll start seeing some massive advances in technology for EV. Once companies such as Mercedes, BMW, Volkswagen and Toyota feel the need to have the best EV on the market and put their huge financial muscle behind it, the EV will come on in leaps and bounds. I believe that companies such as Tesla are making these companies sit up and take note but they are probably content to wait to see the market for EVs increase prior to switching their resources to EV from other projects.

    Until the arrival of that tipping point, we will have to wait for car companies slowly shuffle towards that line. It will either be a trickle which will turn into a flood or one which will dry up. I hope it will be the former.

    • Jamset

      I suspect that car makers make too much profit from selling spare parts from ICE vehicles to start making electric cars.

      Unless of course Tesla starts stealing their lunch.

      • Steve Grinwis

        No way. Having to make parts forever is something that manufacturers actually pretty much hate.

        They’re not making anything on spare parts. They’re breaking even at best. The dealership on the other hand….

  • Steve Grinwis

    People aren’t buying a Mercedes for the value proposition…

    Which kinda makes the whole analysis somewhat moot, doesn’t it?

    Brand loyalty is the single largest predictor of future automobile purchases. There are people who have been buying nothing but Mercedes most of their lives, and will speak their praises to anyone who will listen.

    These people will now have a bunch of great PHEV options, assuming they deliver, which is a pretty good assumption given that they have a bunch of PHEVs already….

    This is as opposed to the Toyota crowd that will only support failed-on-launch fuel cell vehicles. This is a big step in the right direction, by a major automaker, and all you guys can seem to do is shit all over it.

    Good on ya. That’ll win friends and influence people.

    • GlennM

      Well said Steve,
      These childish commenters seem to believe that yelling at Mercedes and saying what they are doing is stupid will somehow make them go in another direction. Actually praising them for their good ideas and efforts, and encouraging the loyal Mercedes buyers to shift slightly from one Mercedes to another is likely to be far more successful and productive.
      In the end Mercedes is a large and conservative company, nudging them in the right direction will work better than lambasting them.

  • sjc_1

    This is what you can do at the high end, with profit margins high you can add a few kWh of batteries to retain market share.

  • milliamp

    In the US tax rebates are based on battery capacity. I don’t have the exact math handy but in the US PHEV’s are subsidized at about $450 per kWh of installed battery capacity up till $7500 meaning at least a 16 kWh battery is needed for the full benefit.

    After =selling 200,000 qualifying vehicles the rebate is done so it doesn’t really make much sense to sell PHEV’s with 5 kWh batteries. At that point they may be better off to not use a plug and stop at just calling them hybrid until they can offer a version with a 15 kWh battery.

    I believe this is one of the driving reasons behind Toyotas decision to stop selling the plug in Prius with a meager 11 mile battery range. It’s useful R&D for the company maybe but doesn’t make strategic sense at least for sale in the US.

    • milliamp

      In addition to this people could say super low range PHEV’s could be useful to encourage growth charging infrastructure but IMO the charging requirements for such vehicles is so low that I’m not sure there is anything useful to be gained from targeting them.

      If anything we need to largely leave behind the older legacy charging standards and move to something more like the Tesla standard going forward. The standards out now are already a major bottleneck and this is without a major breakthrough in battery technology or capacitors.

      We shouldn’t bring the dated charging standards into such a new and evolving industry and adding legacy plugs to everything with a hybrid sticker won’t help that problem. It only encourages building out an infrastructure that already needs to be replaced.

      • TedKidd

        These annoying vehicles block charger access. They always need to be plugged in.

        Folks, think about the difference between opportunity charging and necessity charging. When is a phev necessity charging?

        They are effectively making public charging for compliance range EV’s something us owners of these severely handicapped cars can NOT count on.

        Still haven’t decided if this isn’t a long term good thing. 200 mile cars will almost never need public charging, and public charging complaints will keep people from buying crappy EV’s and having a bad experience, further slowing the market.

        200 mile cars solve a lot of problems, including bridging to the early majority.

  • JamesWimberley

    Think biplanes in 1930. The Royal Navy sank battleships with them in WWII, but it really wasn’t the technology to back.

    • Calamity_Jean

      Think propeller-driven warplanes during the Korean War. A Corsair shot down a jet MiG on at least one occasion.

  • TedKidd

    Ha ha ha! Still moving too slowly, and now they’re starting to see they may have made an existential mistake!

    Yoooouuuurrr moooooving tooo slooowely guys!

    Yes, please, make me a digital camera that still mostly uses film! Dumbasses!

  • Omega Centauri

    Even a 30km range will cut gas consumption by half for many drivers. They are not quite as worthless as you imply.
    It sounds like you are just guessing on the timing. Maybe these are corporate aspirations, but they are contingent on battery advances, and they just don’t want to publically commit to a timetable, until they know they have battery economcs in hand?

    • TedKidd

      Hunh? Publically commit?

      These guys are talking big game all the time, then jumping back to this halfassed crap. It’s like they’re bipolar.

      These crappy hybrid cars are quickly becoming film cameras. These car companies don’t hurry up, they’re Kodak moment will be upon them.

    • evfan

      “Even a 30km range will cut gas consumption by half for many drivers. ” I really doubt statements like this. Is there any evidence to back this up?

      If the electric range is very low, many people might not bother to plug in.

      • GlennM

        Well I traded in my Toyota Corolla on a Prius C with “only” 10 km of Ev range. It immediately DOUBLED my fuel efficiency. 100% improvement may seem “crappy” to you But I am delighted. perhaps you should think before you post.

        • evfan

          Glenn – perhaps you should learn how to do math before you post. You are not getting 100% improvement over a regular Prius. Also you are one driver, not many drivers. Please feel free to link to real research. Anecdote is interesting, but not convincing.

          • GlennM

            Ev Fan…
            How old are you ? seven I suspect…Grow up. As stated above even 30 km of battery will dramatically improve Fuel economy. Fuel economy and decreasing C02 emissions is what this is all about. You feel that “only your way” is the solution. If you are so right how about you start a Car company and out sell Mercedes. Clearly Mercedes has decided on a path to lower emissions that you personally do not agree with, that is your right, but you are NOT the arbiter of all opinion or the repository of all experience…Unless of course secretly you are infact Donald Trump

          • evfan

            You are a sad and silly troll.

            Administrator, please remove his entry that is no asset to the conversation.

          • Bob_Wallace

            What I will remove is instances of name-calling. Let’s keep it civil.

            I don’t know Glenn’s situation. He may live only a couple miles from work and might do all his shopping between work and home. And he may not take many longer distance trips.

            There are situations where only a small battery pack could make a large difference in someone’s fuel consumption.

            It could also be that he made a mistake or got a little carried away. If you think he’s wrong then question. Don’t attack.

            eta: Oops, Prius C is not the plug in Prius. My bad.

          • evfan

            “Prius C is not the plug in Prius. My bad.”

            Your second bad is that you ignore Glenn’s bad attitude. “You should really think before you post”.

            Third bad would be to have a policy about name calling and approving of the ‘Donald Trump’ message above. I flagged his comment yesterday as inappropriate, and somehow it is still there.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I see no name-calling in that comment. You caught a couple of sharp elbows but you weren’t fouled.

          • evfan

            I was referring to two comments actually …

            And again … you are comfortable with Glenn calling others “seven years old”? And you would be ok to have your blog filled with many such back and forths?

          • Bob_Wallace

            You started the pissing match with “Glenn – perhaps you should fix your attitude and learn how to stay on point before you post.”

            And now I’m going to end it. Get back on topic.

          • evfan

            I respectfully disagee. Glen started, and I responded in kind. The evidence is there for all to see.

          • Bob_Wallace

            It’s ended. Don’t make me call your daddy.

          • ROBwithaB

            Let’s be nice to our visitors…

          • evfan

            Have you ever googled the word ‘evenhanded’?

          • ROBwithaB

            My google search history is a closely guarded secret that I will take to my grave ! (Except for the naked midget ladies, of course. That part is already in the public domain…)

            To an impartial observer, my impression is that you were unduly harsh, perhaps even rude, to GlennM. I don’t see anything in his posts to indicate that he is a “sad, silly troll”.
            Taking his comments at face value, it would appear that he is actually “one of us”, in that he cared enough about the environment to buy a Prius. He simply reported his personal experience, presumably in good faith, of improved fuel economy as a result switching to a hybrid, in support of an estimate posted by a different commentor, Omega Centauri.

            Perhaps a Prius is not YOUR first choice for an EV, but let’s agree that it’s a good start, nonetheless, on the road towards decarbonisation.
            No big deal, and no reason to get the moderators involved, IMHO.

            Perhaps Glenn’s biggest crime is that he disagreed with you?

            Perhaps you’re just having a bad day.
            I find that a nice hot cup of tea works quite well for that…

          • evfan

            Rob, you should think before you post. 😉

          • Otis11

            Glenn is misapplying his personal experience and misrepresenting it. He claims to have doubled his mileage going from a ICE to a hybrid. While this is great, it has nothing to do with evfan’s comment even though the wording suggests otherwise.

            Given Glenn’s apparent attitude in the first post, he’s definitely not one to defend.

            That said, did evfan overreact, yes, but again Glenn was the first one to resort to name calling…

          • evfan

            Thanks for pointing this out.

            In real life we sometimes get to deal somebody who talks all the time and fails to listen. It can be hard because folks like that often give long rambling explanations that are not connected to the question we asked.

            That is what happened here. Mr “Top Commenter” and Rob made quick (and incorrect) judgments and ignored several prompts that they were wrong.

            That kind of behavior reminds me of Churchill who said “Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing ever happened.”

          • Bob_Wallace

            What is it that you don’t understand about “end”?

          • evfan

            Otis, I agreed with your post, but Bob deleted it.

      • Bob_Wallace

        Here’s a graph showing daily driving distances in the US. Looks to me that 30 km/18 miles would cover close to 40% of all driving days. Then it would reduce the number of gas miles on all other days. So half? Sounds close to right.

        eta: If you are someone who bought a PHEV you’re probably motivated to run what miles you can on electricity.

        • evfan

          Bob, there is a difference between “what could happen” and “what will happen for many drivers”.

          Please read my post carefully. If you can find evidence that many folks with low range PHEVs actually plug their cars in, please present it.

          I have an alternate theory – many PHEVs get purchased to get a HOV decal.

          • ROBwithaB

            Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
            Can you present evidence to show that they DON’T plug in?

            Either way, I would be very interested to know the answer…

          • evfan


            I think there is a basic assumption in science. If I make a claim that I cannot prove, science regards that claim to be false. It is up to me to prove the truth of my own hypotheses.

            It is kind of presumptuous if I make a claim and expect it to be accepted as true until either of you kind folks disprove it.

            Or not?

          • ROBwithaB

            I think that multiple studies have shown that most people buying EVs of any sort are still motivated primarily by ethical/environmental considerations, rather than ROI or convenience.
            We also know that many of these “early principled adopters” take great pride in using as little fossil fuel as possible.
            It is something of a parlour game among Chevy Volt owners. The longer term financial savings are merely an added bonus. The initial price premium on the car, relative to it’s ICE equivalent, is the price that people were prepared to pay to “do the right thing”.

            Do some of these people enjoy the feeling of moral superiority that a hybrid affords them, even thought they seldom bother to plug it in, especially now that gas prices are low? Do some of them value the convenience of HOV or CBD access, and tax and toll savings more than the environmental benefits?
            Almost certainly. Different strokes for different folks.

            Do some people pay a premium for a hybrid and then go through the (minor) inconvenience of plugging it in every time they park at home, just to feel better about not raping the world?

            It would be interesting to know what the ratios might be between these two categories.

          • evfan

            Rob, I actually have some evidence that low mileage PHEV drivers are not like the rest of us.

            By the way, Chevy Volt is not a low mileage PHEV in my book. And I think EV studies are also not avout low mileage PHEVs. Do you agree?

            Low mileage PHEVs to me are PiP, Ford Energi, Mercedes, etc. And those owners are different.

          • ROBwithaB

            Okay, you have aroused my curiosity.
            What evidence do you have relating to drivers of “compliance” hybrids?

          • evfan

            Glad to have your curiosity. Now let’s aim to get your respect and good grace as well. Or is that only for guests? 😉

            If you look at many online forums in the USA, you can easily get writeups and comments of folks explaining all kinds of details about their life with an EV. You’ll get many comments from i3 owners (BEV & PHEV). You’ll get many comments from 500e owners. You’ll get a reasonable number of comments of eGolf owners. But it is supremely rare to see anybody comment on their life with a plug in Prius.

            And here is the strange part. The PiP has been on the market longer than all the other cars I mention above. And in the USA it sold more than all of them combined. The PiP was on the market for many years (about 1 year less than Chevy Volt), yet the Chevy volt ‘parlour game’ you mention (or is it parlor?), did not start in PiP land.

            Ergo, I think PiP owners are not like us.

            Now some people (Glenn, I am looking in your direction) might dislike my statement, but it is based on fact. All I asked was that people making bold claims please provide proof. I asked twice. I received nothing.

            Some other people are willing to say “well a Prius is better than ICE, it is a step in the right direction”. That makes a lot of sense. Even though PiP owners are not like me. But that is no proof that a “30km PHEV saves half the gas for many drivers”.

          • milliamp

            I missed most of this discussion but I wanted to add that Chevy Volt owners report a real world gas mileage of about 100 MPG because the small range of distance that’s electric covers a lot of short trips and even the first portion of longer ones.

            In Hybrid the car only gets a combined 42 MPG so the electric range is enough to cut the fuel usage in half. I can’t speak for other shorter range PHEVs but at least with the real world reports I have seen from Volt owners doubling the fuel range over hybrid alone appears to be an accurate statement.

            If you drive 106 miles in the Volt and the first have of that was electric and the 2nd half is 42 MPG, your total gasoline mileage for the trip is 84 MPG.

            As long as you stay on top of keeping it plugged in and because most trips are shorter than that then yes it does seem like a plug in hybrid can double the range.

            Based on the average trip being only like 6 miles then yes even a 20 mile PHEV would make a meaningful difference in fuel consumption. See chart:

          • Otis11

            … I know it’s annecdotal, but being in CA I know multiple people who got a Volt for the green (or does the volt qualify for a white?) sticker and the free HOV access. .. and never plug it in (with CA electricity tiers and current low gas prices, there’s little incentive to plug in if your in the top tiers…)

          • Otis11

            Even ford energies might have enough range to make it “worth plugging in” to the average user… well, before gas prices cratered.

          • TedKidd

            The $ savings isn’t meaningful. The true benefit is pure EV driving experience.

            And it’s not that great on these tiny range cars.

            We drove the a3 etron recently. My friend was pissed. It was a bad Audi and a bad EV. I’m not an Audi fanboi so it didn’t piss me off, just disappointing.

            Car went from full to dead in like 15 miles – half of which was driven with the motor ON.

          • TedKidd

            I know a few people with plug in Prius who I don’t think EVER plug them in.

        • Mike333

          The only problem with this is winter. So, a Plugin would really need 30 miles of EV range to actually get 80% year round.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I don’t know how we got from about 50% to 80%.

            Only a portion of drivers will lose range in the winter. Many drivers live where winters are mild and others are going to plug is and prewarm for part of their driving.

            Limited range PHEVs and limited range EVs have limited uses. People need to buy what works for them. In the long run I doubt PHEVs will survive except for some possible niche uses, but PHEVs may have a role to play now and for a while.

      • ROBwithaB

        Bear in mind that even a very small battery enables the full energy benefit of regenerative braking. And allows for emission-free “idling” and crawling while stuck in traffic.

        So even without plugging in, hybrids are already much more efficient.
        The “hard data” is freely available in the published mpg numbers. In absolute terms the data might not be accurate, but one car relative to another should give you a good indication.

        Add in a 30km battery range, the ability to plug in (and the habit to do so every time you park in the garage) and it is quite conceivable to achieve a 50% saving in fuel. Even more, depending on driving habits. Maybe even close to 100%…
        I know some old people for whom a 30km range would enable about 99% of their typical journeys. And some young people too, actually, A lot of stay-at-home Moms, for example.
        They might make 5 or even 10 trips a day, but they’re all local.

      • Jenny Sommer

        Would be enough for 7000 out of my ~8000 anual kms. Only drive in the city. I’d love to skip the 16l/100km by PluginIn.

      • TedKidd

        Yep. Once “the bloom is off the rose” people quickly decide “the juice ain’t worth the squeeze.”

        Plugging in is pretty easy, but my friend with a C-Max (he also has a B class) doesn’t find it worthwhile for 9 miles of EV range.

  • Adrian

    That made a lot of sense, in 2008. Today, not so much. “We’re afraid to offer uncompromised full electrics, lets do all these unnecessary intermediate steps first.”

    Sigh. I suppose its good that they’re making a start, but the major automakers really are a timid bunch. So happy to have Tesla dragging them kicking and screaming into the present…

    • Matt

      I think they are counting on the fact that some people will only buy a Mercedes (or BMW or ….). And likely there are a few people who feel that what. The billion euro question is, if they wait unto 2020 or later to offer a real EV range will there be enough of those one brand only buyers left to keep them going.

      • Jamset

        Mercedes and BMW make bulletproof cars for governments.

        Tesla is not in that market.

        Tesla do not have any plan to make a car smaller than a BMW 3-series.

Back to Top ↑