Mercedes-Benz Maps Out 20 Percent Fuel Economy Boost

July 7, 2008
While a wide range of powertrain possibilities, including gasoline and diesel hybrids along with fuel cells, are possible over the long term, the German automaker plans to achieve up to a 20 percent gain in fuel economy throughout much of its fleet over the next several years, says Dr. Thomas Weber, member of the Daimler Board of Management, in charge of Group Research and Mercedes-Benz Cars Development. The first 10 percent will be through incremental measures—including those influenced on the automaker’s European-market BlueEfficiency cars—such as low-rolling-resistance tires and the elimination of belt-driven accessories, while the second 10 percent would be achieved through start-stop technology.

Similar to the feature that’s been used on hybrid-powertrain vehicles for many years now, along with the full-size GM pickups labeled hybrids, the start-stop feature would simply shut off the engine during periods of sustained idling, resuming it smoothly and almost instantaneously when starting back up from a traffic light or gridlock.

Weber said that start-stop hardware itself costs roughly 250 euros, or close to $400, per car, and it’s being launched as an option in the European A- and B-Class models. In-house, the automaker is developing start-stop components that it plans to install across its entire line of vehicles, at a similar cost.

Start-stop “will be a base technology for every single car” from Mercedes-Benz, according to Weber. Regarding the North American market, Weber said, the only question will be how fast the company can convince the customer that it’s needed and that it adds value.

“To bring these technologies into cars will cost time and money,” Weber says, “We are going this way. The only question is how fast?” Weber elaborated that the company needs to go about it aggressively and proactively, in such a way that they “deliver something special to the customer.”

A more fuel-efficient vehicle with the three-pointed star might just be that. —Bengt Halvorson

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