Daimler launches first German hybrid car

June 28, 2009 by Lenaig Bredoux
Mercedes Benz S Class cars move on an assembly line at the Mercedes plant in Sindelfingen, southern Germany. The world's best-selling limousine, a favourite of world leaders, the Mercedes Benz S Class, is now available in Europe with two motors, one electric and the other petrol (gasoline), to save fuel and cut pollution.

German luxury car maker Daimler launched its first hybrid model last week, almost 10 years after the market leader, Toyota.

The world's best-selling limousine, a favourite of world leaders, the Mercedes Benz S Class, is now available in Europe with two motors, one electric and the other petrol (gasoline), to save fuel and cut pollution.

The "CO2 champion of luxury cars," as Mercedes bills it, nonetheless cranks out 186-189 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometre, remaining one of the biggest polluters on the road, well above the European average of around 160 grams.

A comparable S model with a normal engine can spew out as much as 234 grams, Daimler counters.

A spokesman added that "we want to launch at least one model per year."

It is by all accounts a mini revolution in the German auto sector, which generally produces big, powerful cars by brands including Mercedes, Porsche, BMW and Audi.

Porsche plans to roll out a hybrid version of its Cayenne sports utility vehicle in late 2010, and BMW is preparing a saloon (sedan) from its Series 7 line this year, even though it is "too early to speak of full distribution," according to a BMW spokeswoman.

Auto expert Gerd Lottspiesen from the environmental association VCD told AFP that the German car industry "has been asleep for several years."

"It repeatedly dismissed hybrids. If it is finally waking up, it's pretty late" compared with Toyota, which sold its first hybrid Prius model in Europe nine years ago.

Lexus, the luxury line from Toyota, has offered a hybrid system for four years.

"For years, the German automobile sector did not believe hybrids had a chance ... but at a certain point, under market pressure, the industry changed its mind," said Stefan Bratzel, professor at a specialised auto centre in the western city of Bergisch Gladbach.

German companies mainly focused on diesel engines, the specialists noted.

As a result, the German market is dominated by diesels, while hybrids represented only 0.2 percent of the market last year with the sale of 6,500 Toyota, Lexus or Honda hybrids, according to national registration figures.

Since its launch, Toyota has sold 22,000 Prius in France and around 17,000 in Germany, which has a market three times bigger, according to Toyota data.

"The Prius has never been a best-seller here," a spokeswoman for the Japanese group acknowledged.

Germans, who are strongly attached to their national brands, could begin to switch over if domestic hybrid models are available however.

"The environmental trend is becoming dominant," said Frank Schwope, an auto analyst at the NordLB bank.

Daimler is a good example.

Until now it has been considered one of the most resistant to environmental trends.

But in the past few months, Daimler has begun to highlight its determination in the area.

It recently acquired a battery company and a 10 percent stake in the US electric car maker Tesla.

A sign for auto specialists that Germans could be at the leading edge of the next big step, fully electric automobiles.

(c) 2009 AFP

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2.3 / 5 (3) Jun 29, 2009
Wake up, Europe. In city driving, even a diesel will produce 30% less pollutants per km as a hybrid. That ancient argument "but we prefer diesels to hybrids" is the dumbest thing I've heard in a long time.

European automakers do have a chance to catch up, though. Skip the hybrid step and go straight to PHEV's. Toyota would freak.
1 / 5 (1) Jun 29, 2009
I agree. If we would spend half of our military funding on solar panels and windmills instead, we could run our entire fleet of american vehicles on renewable energy in just a few years.

No need for wars to get oil then.
2.5 / 5 (2) Jul 01, 2009
I agree. If we would spend half of our military funding on solar panels and windmills instead, we could run our entire fleet of american vehicles on renewable energy in just a few years.

No need for wars to get oil then.
Exclude the "solar and windmill" part of your statement and I agree with you. Less spending on the military-industrial complex and more spending on the populist complex will yield a far greater benefit than solar and wind power ever would.

Free the people, and the people will erect their own technocracy.
not rated yet Jul 03, 2009
What form of renewable energy do you suggest if not solar or wind?

We could get gigawatts of solar for a mere fraction of the military spending. We have the real estate (home roofs) we have the infrastructure (people using power where its created, no need for transmission)

The worst case scenario is that some of the excess solar power is wasted when it's not needed. There are plenty of ways to use intermittant power if you know it needs to be used....

like.... How about everyone turn on your air conditioners full blast when the solar power is creating too much electricity. Most people would love a free 2 degree cooling of their houses. A cloud comes by and everyone AC goes back to normal settings. Intermittant power, intermittant use. No needed extra infrastructure. Controll everyones AC through a phone line that already exists.

People always complain you need all these extra lines to every house to make solar useful. Why? For what purpose? You need less energy into your house. You need less energy into your neighborhood. You need less energy into your city. If anything you put a ***LITTLE*** energy back to the main grid. If the grid can supply a neighborhood with 200 MW, it can certianly handle taking back 10MW of power with just a minimal switching circuit at the relay station.

I'm listening. Where is the extra infrastructure needed to make use of solar energy? Keep in mind peak load is always during the day when the sun is shining the brightest.

Even if you don't send back power, if you take many peoples houses off the grid so they don't use power during the day, you release a lot of need for peak energy use. Even if the house simply turns off the solar panels and wastes the energy when it doesn't want it, that is a big savings to the electric bill for you and the city.

If nothing else it's a start. A step in the direction of powering yourselves instead of killing people to steal their power, and it is cheaper powering the war machine.

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