Zwartkop, Pretoria – In a world challenged to – ‘re-use and recycle’; ‘to conserve and protect’ – comes an automotive brand determined to make a significant technological contribution towards reducing the impact of CO2 emissions on the environment.
Fuel-efficient and environmentally-sustainable premium automobiles and state-of-the-art commercial vehicles from Mercedes-Benz – these are the cornerstones of an environmentally conscious Mercedes-Benz brand strategy.
With its “Leading Sustainable Mobility” roadshow, launched today, Mercedes-Benz South Africa (Pty) Ltd presented details of future product implementation, providing a glimpse into developments in vehicle engine technology.
“Our aim is to substantially reduce fuel consumption and to minimise emissions today and completely eliminate them in the long run. To this end, we are developing cutting-edge drive technologies that meet current and future mobility requirements in all aspects of road traffic,” says Dr Martin Zimmermann, President and CEO of Mercedes-Benz South Africa.
As well as experiencing a number of BlueEFFICIENCY models from the extensive Mercedes-Benz range, roadshow participants also discovered first hand the unrestricted everyday practicality of Daimler’s electric and Fuel-Cell vehicles, the smart fortwo ed, the Vito E-CELL and the B-Class F-CELL.
Individually tailored solutions for diverse requirements
Alongside economic factors – primarily increasing fuel prices – the environmental sustainability of vehicles is gaining importance in customer’s purchasing decisions.
“Our customers want safe, comfortable and powerful vehicles that are also extremely efficient and environmentally compatible. The key challenge is to make motor vehicles even more efficient and clean without compromising on comfort or safety. By developing optimised vehicles with high-tech internal combustion engines, hybrid drives with a choice of output ratings and electric vehicles with batteries or fuel-cells, Mercedes-Benz is consciously taking a multi-lane route to ever more environmentally compatible and eventually zero-emission vehicles. In this way it is possible to provide sustainable mobility with great variety at a high level,” says Dr. Zimmermann.
Roadmap for sustainable mobility
“The company’s development strategy is centered on securing its leading position within the premium vehicle segment, and three key fields of action are defined in the roadmap for sustainable mobility,” explains Dr Zimmermann.
• Optimisation of vehicles with the very latest combustion engines – such as downsizing, petrol direct injection, turbocharging and BlueTEC – as well as specific vehicle optimisation initiatives in areas such as aerodynamics, lightweight design and energy management (BlueEFFICIENCY).
• Further efficiency improvements via individually tailored hybridisation in a number of stages – from the start/stop function through to the Two-Mode hybrid with full electric drive capability.
• Zero-emissions driving with fuel cells and battery-powered vehicles.
BlueEFFICIENCY achieves up to thirty percent less fuel consumption
Development engineers have devised individual packages tailor-made for each vehicle segment. The objective is to find the best solution for each individual vehicle model. Under the BlueEFFICIENCY label, Mercedes-Benz has developed a package of various fuel economic measures, which are being rolled out through the entire Mercedes-Benz model range. It encompasses optimisation of weight, aerodynamics, rolling resistance, energy management and powertrain. BlueEFFICIENCY initiatives can reduce fuel consumption by up to thirty percent.
Diesel as clean as gasoline …
Mercedes-Benz wants to make petrol engines as efficient as diesel engines, and diesel engines as clean as petrol engines. With the highly efficient BlueTec exhaust gas treatment system, Mercedes-Benz has already achieved its aim for the diesel engine, and thus proven the future viability of the self-ignition engine. When it comes to fuel consumption, the latest diesel technology is currently the best option for large sedans and SUVs. Mercedes-Benz SUVs have followed suit and are equipped with the world’s cleanest diesel technology.
“Locally diesel with 50 parts per million (ppm) has been more readily available, and this has encouraged us to introduce the S 350 BlueTec (December 2010) and the G 350 BlueTec (April 2011),” adds Dr. Zimmermann.
Many Mercedes-Benz Commercial Vehicles are engineered with BlueTec and today we see more than 330 000 trucks and buses on international roads with this technology and around 5 000 with alternative drive systems.
“We are currently running a pilot project with one of our major transport operators with four BlueTec Actros trucks, and the results are encouraging,” adds
He continues, “On both the commercial vehicle and passenger car side, we see Germany moving to Euro 6 emission free levels, which requires diesel with 10 ppm. We have the technology to offer customers significant fuel savings, but without the required fuel, we cannot bring this to South Africa.”
… petrol as fuel-efficient as diesel
The preferred methods for improving the efficiency of the petrol engine are, for example, reduction in displacement – downsizing – and turbocharging. All the petrol engines in the model series have direct injection. A milestone is the introduction of the new V6 petrol engine with its innovative and highly efficient BlueDIRECT process. The leap in efficiency is particularly well illustrated by the six-cylinder unit: power has increased considerably and fuel consumption has been significantly reduced.
Fuel-efficient and powerful petrol hybrids
The potential for increased efficiency of combustion engines can be further realised through hybrid technologies. As far back as 2009, Mercedes-Benz launched two petrol hybrids. In the U.S., the ML 450 BlueHYBRID is the most fuel-efficient SUV available – equipped with a Two-Mode hybrid that can also be driven powered purely by electricity. This hybrid variant is particularly suitable for SUVs and enables fuel savings, even in long-distance driving. The S 400 BlueHYBRID has set a new standard in the luxury class. With only 7.9 litres fuel consumption in the NEDC, it is the world’s most fuel-efficient vehicle in its class.
In parallel, Mercedes-Benz is offering a needs-based solution for smaller vehicles. Crucial to the choice of the hybrid module are the real-life usage patterns; that is, the actual everyday driving profile and the cost/benefit relationship. This is why Mercedes-Benz opted to introduce the smooth ECO start/stop function – a system that had already proven itself in the smart fortwo micro hybrid drive.
BlueTEC HYBRID – the champion fuel saver of the future
Clean diesel hybrids currently present the greatest fuel-saving potential within the larger vehicle segments. The BlueTEC HYBRID technology is a highly efficient powertrain system that Mercedes-Benz has in series production. The front-runners in this trend are the BlueTEC models in the Mercedes-Benz R, E, ML and GL-Class ranges – the first diesel vehicles to meet the rigorous US exhaust emission standards in all 50 states.
The innovative research vehicle F 125!, presented at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September this year, demonstrates what emission-free mobility could look like in the future and the technological innovations this would involve.
Driving with zero local emissions through pure electric power
In parallel to hybrid concepts, Mercedes-Benz is working intensively on solutions for purely electric driving using fuel cells and batteries. Electric drives are particularly quiet, highly efficient and have zero local emissions. The company has been doing research in fuel cell technology as far back as 1991 fuel cell technology, and therefore has broad experience in electric driving.
A battery-powered test fleet comprising 100 smart fortwo electric drive vehicles in London has been running successfully since 2007. As a zero-emissions vehicle, the smart fortwo electric drive enjoys tax advantages and is exempt from local restrictions – such as the congestion charge levied in the British capital. This makes it an interesting and environment-friendly alternative, especially within urban areas. More than 2 000 electric smarts will be distributed in 30 countries.
However, the success of innovative drive concepts is directly linked to the allocation and availability of corresponding infrastructure, which means a much more intensive collaboration between energy companies, petroleum industry and governments, together with automobile manufacturers, is needed.
Advancement in fuel cell development
Mercedes-Benz has at its disposal the world’s largest customer test fleet, and commenced with small-scale series production of the B-Class F-CELL in 2010, featuring the next-generation fuel cell drive. This new generation has a considerable higher output, while at the same time being more compact. It is capable of cold-start at temperatures as low as -25 degrees Celsius, has a significantly greater range of up to 400 kilometres and also boasts short refueling times. The key to all forms of vehicle electrification is the energy storage unit – from hybrids to pure electric driving with fuel cell and battery vehicles. Compared with other types of batteries, lithium-ion technology offers considerable advantages, including very compact dimensions, much greater power output, a long life cycle and a high level of reliability. Mercedes-Benz uses lithium-ion batteries in battery-powered and fuel cell vehicles and its engineers achieved the breakthrough in this field through patented technological solutions. In 2009, Mercedes-Benz was the world’s first manufacturer to introduce a passenger car with lithium-ion battery to market – the S 400 BlueHYBRID.
Clean fuels for clean power units
“The development of fuels and powertrains are inseparably linked. High quality and alternative fuels can release further potential in the reduction of fuel consumption and emissions,” adds Dr. Zimmermann.
Intelligent driveline mix as a solution for future mobility
Mercedes-Benz has already brought a large number of customised technological solutions to market that meet the demands of the future. The latest examples are the BlueEFFICIENCY versions of passenger cars and vans with ECO start/stop function.
“The modular powertrain mix – from state-of-the-art combustion engines with BlueTec or direct injection with and without hybridisation to local emission-free battery and fuel cell vehicles – also offers all the prerequisites for long-term, need-based and individually tailored mobility for Mercedes-Benz customers, at the high levels expected from the brand,” concludes Dr. Zimmermann.
Safety with Mercedes-Benz
For decades, Mercedes-Benz has been setting the standards for the development of new technologies to boost active and passive safety in automobiles. All of these systems have demonstrably contributed to making road traffic safer and to considerably reduce the numbers of road users injured or killed in accidents. Mercedes-Benz defines the benchmarks in active safety technology with intelligent assistance systems that turn the vehicle into the driver’s “thinking partner”.
Spot light on SLS AMG E-CELL super sports car
The star attraction of the ‘Leading Sustainable Mobility’ roadshow was undoubtedly the SLS AMG E-CELL show-car, which is close to series production in 2013. The SLS AMG E-CELL takes electric current to a whole new level of responsibility.
“The SLS AMG E-CELL offers thrilling driving without local emissions. Four electric motors with a total of 392 kW of power and 880 Nm of torque accelerate this gullwing from 0 – 100 km in four seconds. There can hardly be a more environmentally friendly super sports car on the road today,” says Dr. Zimmermann.
Demonstrating the company’s globally unparalleled expertise in sustainable mobility – be it the smart fortwo electric drive city car, the SLS AMG E-CELL super sports car or the Vito E-CELL urban van – Daimler also provides green solutions in the commercial vehicle segment, including the Mercedes-Benz Econic NGT with CO2 neutral biogas drive and the FUSO Canter Eco Hybrid truck.