Mercedes offers PHEV versions of its S, C, and E Class vehicles as well as an electrified version of the GLE. But it has now pulled the plug — so to speak — on every one of them while it tools up to replace them with its third generation plug-in hybrid technology. When production resumes, the cars with plugs will be marketed under the new EQ brand the company will use to distinguish its electrified cars from its conventional offerings.
What’s different about the third generation technology? More power, longer range, and higher top speeds. The new system features a nine-speed automatic gearbox packaged together with a clutch and an electric motor in a single unit, which can then be coupled with a variety of internal combustion engines. The new electric motor adds 121 horsepower and up to 325 lb-ft of torque to the powertrain. All electric range is now up to 31 miles — about 10 more miles than in the second generation cars. Top speed on electric power alone is now 87 mph, up from 81.
According to Autocar, the plug-in Mercedes models — particularly the C Class — have enjoyed success in the UK market. Last year, 9.2% of C Class sedans were plug-ins while 14.2% of C Class wagons were electrified. The new EQ-branded S Class plug-in will be known as the 560e and will go on sale in the UK this fall. It will cross the Atlantic to North America in the middle of 2019. It will feature a 6-cylinder gasoline engine. The same powertrain will appear later in the updated GLE.
The third generation C Class sedan will be offered in the UK with either a 4-cylinder diesel or gas engine. A diesel engine E Class will follow. Both models will make their debut before the end of 2018. There is no word on North American offerings, but it seems unlikely any diesel hybrid options will make their way to US shores. In 2019, a plug-in version of the A Class is expected to compete with the Audi A3 e-tron.
Electric car advocates will scoff at Mercedes’ plans to offer more plug-in hybrids. Where are the all electric cars, they want to know? Patience, grasshopper. Plug-in hybrids may not be the pinnacle of zero emissions vehicle development but they are a step on the journey toward the EV revolution and will have lower tailpipe emissions compared to the second generation cars. With longer electric-only range, these new models will be able to meet the daily driving needs of most drivers without calling on an internal combustion engine for assistance.
Every Mercedes driver who buys one of these new third generation cars will experience the joy that comes from having up to an extra 325 lb-ft of torque on tap, making them believers in the goodness of electric power. That will make them more likely to demand an all electric vehicle the next time they visit their Mercedes dealer.